A man who spent 22 years in prison for his involvement in the massive 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters, was been awarded $344,122.30 in legal fees following his successful Freedom of Information lawsuit.
Bryan Sheppard filed suit against the United States Department of Justice in 2017, seeking production of a full report into allegations of that investigators coerced witnesses to implicate him and four others. After four years of litigation, the DOJ was forced to release the information.
The 1988 explosion occurred in a trailer that was set on fire at a highway construction site. The blast is said to have involved 25,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil. Killed were Captain Gerald C. Halloran, 57, Thomas M. Fry, 41, Luther E. Hurd, 31, Captain James H. Kilventon Jr., 54, Robert D. McKarnin, 42, and Michael R. Oldham, 32.
Sheppard was one of five convicted of setting the trailer on fire at the construction site. He was sentenced to life in prison, but in 2017 his sentence was reduced to 20 years. He had already served 22 years in prison and was released when his sentence was reduced. Sheppard claims he and his co-defendants are innocent, was quoted as saying: “I feel guilty every day that they aren’t here with me they deserve a second chance too because they didn’t commit the crime either.”
An investigative report by an award-winning reporter, Mike McGraw, of the Kansas City Star, raised questions about whether the right parties had been convicted.
After prevailing on his FOIA claim, Sheppard sought $444,314 in attorneys fees and $734.98 in costs. US District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey reduced his request to $344,122.30 and costs of $734.98. Here is a copy of the decision.
UPDATE: February 2, 2022: The Kansas City Star just updated their coverage, explaining some of the details contained in the full 20 page report. Here is their coverage.
Fire Engineering picked up some of the coverage as well (no paywall). Fire Engineering.