Missouri prisoner’s family hoping for similar outcome as Lamar Johnson

Kenneth Middleton is serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 6:27 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The family of a Kansas City area man who has spent more than 30 years in prison hopes to get his case reviewed under a recently enacted Missouri law.

Kenneth Middleton, now 78, was convicted for the 1990 killing of his wife, Kathy Middleton. Authorities said Kenneth shot and killed Kathy in his Kansas City area home. Cliff Middleton, Kenneth’s son, told News 4 a gun residue test was done. It concluded that gunshot residue was not on Kenneth. A test was done on Kathy, but the test for the hand Kathy had the gun in went missing, according to Cliff. Cliff believes Kathy mishandled the gun and accidentally shot herself.

Kenneth had the opportunity to take an Alford Plea, meaning the defendant claims innocence but acknowledges there’s likely enough evidence for a guilty verdict, but declined the offer.

Cliff Middleton and Kenneth’s lawyer filed a petition in October asking for a special prosecutor to oversee the case. The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office hasn’t responded to the petition yet, according to Cliff.

St. Louis’ Circuit Attorney, Kim Gardner, used the recently enacted law in Lamar Johnson’s case. The law gives prosecutors an avenue to file a petition to free innocent people. Johnson is now waiting on a verdict from a judge.

“Thank God Lamar Johnson paid the price and he’s the one that got this law rolling, and got it passed,” Cliff said. “Due to the conflict of interest within the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office in my father’s case, we can’t get a motion filed on his behalf. We need to have a special prosecutor appointed that’s not laboring under a conflict of interest.”

Roughly 17 years ago, a judge ruled to overturn Ken Middleton’s conviction, but Jackson County prosecutors didn’t have jurisdiction over this case anymore. The jurisdiction belonged to the Missouri Court of Appeals. Meaning the ruling couldn’t go through — keeping Middleton behind bars on a life sentence.

Jackson County prosecutors previously used the new law to free Kevin Strickland after 43 years in prison.

“There are more wrongful convictions out there, and unless these prosecutors are going to use this new law, what good is it?” Cliff added.

News 4 contacted the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office but didn’t hear back as of Tuesday evening.