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Opinion: As a Missouri exoneree and voter, here’s how I see it

I’m Josh Kezer, a Missouri exoneree. I live in Columbia. I’m an innocence and sex trafficking victim advocate. I’ve been wrongfully accused, charged, tried, and convicted of murder. I’ve faced the possibility of the death sentence. I was sentenced to 60 years in prison and spent 16 years of my life in the Missouri Department of Corrections as an innocent man.

I was declared “innocent” by Cole County Judge Richard Callahan on Feb. 17, 2009, and released on Feb. 18, 2009. I was as innocent the day I walked out a free middle-aged man as I was the day I was imprisoned as a wrongfully convicted teenager.

I understand Kevin Strickland and others like him. I’ve walked in their shoes. I’ve lived where they live. I’ve faced the same opposition.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, continues to prove himself devoid of empathy and constitutional obligation in defense of victims of crime and injustice.

“Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who, without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.” – John Stuart Mill

Schmitt opted to petition the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District to delay Strickland’s hearing, to “do nothing,” I presume, in favor of fundraising and pursuing his political aspirations.

The court entertained his deliberate indifference and granted his petition.

Just Google: “What is a word that specifically describes gaining political gain on the backs of other people?” The answer: demagogue — a manipulative politician who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument. Attorney General Schmitt has certainly met that definition.

The truth is, as I see it, Schmitt, pre-occupied with fundraising to win Roy Blunt’s Senate seat, couldn’t care less about Kevin Strickland, Larry Ingram, Sherrie Black, John Walker, Lamar Johnson, Marcus Boyd, Ken or Kathy Middleton, or any victim of murder or injustice.

Eric Schmitt’s political aspirations come first.

A conservative voter in Missouri, I vote Republican because I believe in and support pro-life, pro-victim, pro-justice, pro-conservative, and pro-Christian values. Schmitt doesn’t represent these “pros.” Not when he does nothing.

Eric Schmitt represents himself.

We can’t “look on and do nothing.” So long as he continues to put himself first, delay, do nothing, and devalue American victims of crime and injustice, he doesn’t deserve our vote.

The moment that changes, he may deserve our vote. But right now, he doesn’t.