Mayor David Alvey today stated the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s conviction integrity unit funding will be considered at the Aug. 30 Unified Government Commission meeting.
The CIU would review some past cases for credible and verifiable claims of innocence, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel and law enforcement error.
The mayor stated in a news release that the program was approved during the budget process, and the funding was placed in reserves at that time while awaiting a response from the Kansas attorney general. The Kansas City, Kansas, police chief, Wyandotte County Sheriff and law enforcement union representatives had asked the attorney general for a response to questions about it.
“That response has come and stated the District Attorney is well within his rights to use these funds to address cases that fall under K.S.A. 60-1507. It is vital that our publicly elected Commission take the time to fully review all expenditures of taxpayer dollars. I believe that responsibility has been met and I plan to place this on the August 30th agenda. If approved, the funds will be released this fall as part of normal fiscal allocations,” Mayor Alvey stated in the news release.
The letter from the police chief and sheriff asked the AG to review District Attorney Mark Dupree’s proposed conviction and integrity unit. The letter said the unit is a “clear deviation from the criminal justice system’s handling of manifest injustice claims under KSA 60-1507 and additionally a deviation in how other active Conviction Integrity Units select cases.” The letter said defendants already have a way to address wrongful convictions under state law. The letter also pointed out the program could be expensive. It asked for the AG’s oversight of the local program.
The letter that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt sent to the police chief, sheriffs and law enforcement representatives stated that the practice in Kansas is for the local prosecutors, not the attorney general, to handle trial-level criminal cases on behalf of the state.
The attorney general stated he spoke with Dupree about the proposal, and was told that its purpose was to allow local funding to hire an additional attorney or attorneys in his office to handle post-conviction litigation at the trial court level. “That, of course, is well within his authority, subject to budget decisions made locally,” the attorney general stated in the letter.
The AG’s letter discusses the police chief and sheriff’s letter that included information about law school interns that might conduct review and investigation of cases. His letter stated there seemed to be different visions of what the proposed CIU would do and its authority.
“With this lack of definition, I am unable to identify an appropriate role for the Office of the Attorney General in this matter at this time,” the AG’s letter stated. “Of course, if we were asked by the District Attorney to assist in any individual cases at the trial-court level, including post-conviction cases, we would consider any such request on a case-by-case basis. Conversely, if the actual operation of a CIU were to improperly interfere with any duty of the Attorney General, such as the new duties assigned to this office by 2018 House Bill 2579, or if we were to observe any systemic concerns or conflicts with state law arising from the operations of a CIU (such as systemic violations of the Crime Victims Bill of Rights, which you mentioned in your letter), we would consider reassessing the matter at that time. … At this time, however, we are aware of no such basis for further involvement by the Office of the Attorney General.”
Other stories about this issue are online at:
The UG meeting where this issue was last discussed is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yydcLxwyjIo.
The July 19 UG meeting where the CIU was discussed is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siZ7517LY2E.
The attorney general’s letter: