Views from Kansas: Pay wrongfully convicted man
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
For Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, approving the compensation Lamonte McIntyre is owed should not be a tough call.
After all, the 42-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man spent 23 years in prison for a 1994 double murder he did not commit.
Last year, Kansas became the 33rd state to offer compensation to people who were wrongly imprisoned. The state is required to pay $65,000 for each year they spent behind bars. And Schmidt is now tasked with recommending to the state’s finance counsel whether compensation should be approved.
Under the new state law, McIntyre is owed more than $1.5 million, educational assistance and counseling, as well as other social services. And he has every reason to expect that he should be paid without delay.
When then-Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the legislation last year clearing the way for the wrongfully convicted to be compensated, he offered McIntyre and two other men whose convictions were overturned an apology and a promise.
“We will make it right,” Colyer told the three men.
Schmidt apparently didn’t get the memo.
The other two men, Floyd Scott Bledsoe and Richard Jones, have already received more than $1 million in compensation, had their records expunged, have been given a certificate of innocence, access to counseling and state of Kansas health care benefits for two years. Bledsoe was falsely accused and later convicted of murder and kidnapping, and Jones was sent to prison for a robbery committed by another man whose appearance was similar.
McIntyre, though, has been denied his due.
Incredibly, Schmidt believes that McIntyre, whose wrongful conviction became one of the driving forces for passing the much-needed compensation legislation, is owed nothing.
In a court filing to answer McIntyre’s claim for financial relief, Schmidt wrote: “The State of Kansas asks that claimant take nothing by his petition.”
“It feels like I am being bullied,” McIntyre said Friday.
McIntyre was arrested when he was 17 and then convicted at age 18 of a double murder in Kansas City, Kan. He says he is ready to fight the system again, yet worn out from decades of trying to prove his innocence.
And he should be.
McIntyre’s case has been well-chronicled. And the facts are conclusive.
No physical evidence ties him to the crime, no motive was ever established, and two witnesses have testified that they were coerced into identifying McIntyre as the shooter by Roger Golubski, who was then a detective in Kansas City, Kan., and Terra Morehead, who was a Wyandotte County assistant prosecutor.
The Midwest Innocence Project and defense attorney Cheryl Pilate have spent years collecting credible evidence to prove McIntyre’s innocence. In 2017, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree took a fresh look at the case and eventually announced that the county would no longer contest the facts of McIntyre’s innocence.
After spending 23 years behind bars, McIntyre finally walked out of prison a free man in October 2017.
Now, Schmidt seeks to deny McIntyre a just resolution all over again.
“It’s not about money,” McIntyre said. “It’s about equality and justice.”
Despite the reams of affidavits and case files that led Wyandotte County to drop the charges against McIntyre, Schmidt claims his innocence has not been proven as required by law. All of those documents were sent to the attorney general, but Schmidt still wants to challenge the compensation claim in court.
“You mean to tell me they are going to take that family through one-and-a-half years of litigation?” Pilate asked.
The law’s purpose is to provide relief and assistance to the wrongfully convicted after they’re released from prison.
The state of Kansas already stole more than two decades of McIntyre’s life by imprisoning him for murders he did not commit. Now, Schmidt’s motion to deny McIntyre compensation threatens to rob him of the chance to land on his feet as he starts his life anew.
— Originally published in The Kansas City Star