TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is dropping its fight against the compensation claim from a man who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide before a judge vacated convictions that were secured even though no physical evidence or motive tied him to the crimes, the state's attorney general said Tuesday.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in an Associated Press interview that his office made the decision after reviewing 900 pages of documents from Lamonte McIntyre's attorney that had not been provided to it previously. He also said an ongoing Kansas Bureau of Investigation review of the 1994 crimes for which McIntyre, from Kansas City, Kansas, was charged turned up new information.
Schmidt said his office will work with McIntyre's attorney on a settlement to present to a Shawnee County District Court judge. He said that under a 2018 Kansas law, McIntyre is likely to receive $1.5 million from the state — $65,000 for each year he spent in prison — plus money to cover attorney fees and other expenses.
McIntyre's case was one of several that prompted the law requiring the state to compensate victims of wrongful convictions, and Schmidt, a Republican, had received bipartisan criticism for resisting McIntyre's compensation claim while agreeing to two others.
“Because we knew there was evidence that was never placed in front of a court, before we just signed off on a claim, we had an obligation to the new court to collect and review all of the evidence,” Schmidt said. “We've now done that.”
McIntyre was 17 in 1994 when he was arrested for the killings of 21-year-old Doniel Quinn and 34-year-old Donald Ewing, who were shot in broad daylight.
McIntyre received two life sentences in their deaths, but he was freed in 2017 after a local prosecutor asked the court to vacate his convictions and to drop all charges, calling his case an example of "manifest injustice." Prosecutors' case had largely hinged on testimony that was allegedly coerced.
“Today’s decision by the Kansas Attorney General goes one step further, by recognizing that Lamonte qualifies for compensation under the Kansas statute,” Cheryl Pilate, McIntyre's attorney, said in a statement. “Lamonte is still dealing with the effects of 23 years of wrongful imprisonment, but the funding and other support provided by the statute will now make his load a little easier to bear.”
"Today, the State of Kansas officially acknowledged what has always been known to Lamonte, his attorneys, his family and others connected with his case – that he is innocent. The Attorney General’s Office is preparing a Journal Entry and Certificate of Innocence to be entered by the Court. The State of Kansas, which prosecuted Lamonte, will also be submitting an order of expungement for the court’s signature, so that the shadow of Lamonte’s conviction can be finally and totally lifted. For 23 1/2 years, Lamonte suffered through a horrendous and seemingly endless nightmare. His release and the court finding of a “manifest injustice” in October 2017 brought release and freedom, and today’s decision by the Kansas Attorney General goes one step further, by recognizing that Lamonte qualifies for compensation under the Kansas statute. Lamonte is still dealing with the effects of 23 years of wrongful imprisonment, but the funding and other support provided by the statute will now make his load a little easier to bear."
When signing the wrongful-conviction compensation law, then-Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer apologized to McIntyre and the other men and said, “We will make it right.”
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the top eight leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature would have to review any settlement language.
Under the law, McIntyre also is due health insurance benefits, financial assistance for higher education and counseling and various social services.
Associated Press writer Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas, also contributed.