Advocate Ricky Kidd, MTIP freed client Dave Wilkes spark friendship

MTIP freed client Dave Wilkes (left) with innocence advocate Ricky Kidd

When renowned innocence advocate and exoneree Ricky Kidd learned that Montana Innocence Project freed client Dave Wilkes was seeking community and opportunities to get involved in reform work, he traveled six hours to meet up with him. Over lunch with their families, Ricky and Dave did the simple yet profound act of connecting over the shared experience of being wrongfully convicted.

“Knowing that other people are innocent is not enough for me,” said Ricky, who was exonerated by the Midwest Innocence Project in 2019 and now works as their Community Engagement Manager. “Having a chance to get to know other people who are innocent fosters community and acknowledges each other’s painful experience. Making the decision to visit Dave was inspired by the idea that I wanted Dave to know that he is valued. In return, it made me feel of value to support other freed and exonerated individuals.”

Ricky is a speaker, author, and playwright. He offers resilience and mindset trainings through his company I AM RESILIENCE, and he advocates for the wrongfully convicted as a criminal justice consultant by training prosecutors to prevent wrongful convictions.

Dave said Ricky’s visit inspired him in many ways—namely, by having the opportunity to share his story with someone who understands and by learning ways to engage in reforming the criminal legal system. The two plan to maintain their friendship and hope to collaborate on advocacy work in the future!

“I believe that when you’re able to connect with someone that has had a similar experience, it helps us to not only have empathy for another’s plight but also to truly connect on a human level,” Dave said. “We all come from different backgrounds as well as economic challenges, ethnicities, and different social constructs. So to be able to meet someone as truly gifted and genuine as Ricky Kidd was great, and can’t wait to further our work with criminal justice reform.”