In the wake of news reports that the LaMonte McIntyre compensation for wrongful imprisonment may be delayed for years as the state attorney general’s office works on the case, today the Wyandotte County District Attorney has released an open letter on the McIntyre case.
DA spokesman Jonathan Carter said the open letter is not an attempt to get into the middle of the case between the attorney general and McIntyre, but is just explaining the district attorney’s role and the actions the district attorney’s office took.
Open letter and response to the Lamont McIntyre case, manifest injustice and the need for criminal justice reform
From District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr.:
As the District Attorney of Wyandotte County, Kansas, and a life-long Wyandotte Countian, I must begin by expressing my love for justice and the deep respect I hold for the institution of law. It is because of that respect, love, and hope for a brighter future I must acknowledge that our criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed. Those flaws have caused harmful inequities which have fueled generational trauma to families, decimated entire communities, and disproportionately impacted poor folks, those suffering with mental health illnesses, and communities of color. Our prisons and county jails across the state and country are full of what I have affectionately coined as the three B’s “black, brown, and broke folks” of all backgrounds and walks of life. The vast majority of these individuals live beneath the poverty line and cannot afford to pay the cash bond, cannot afford to hire an attorney, and a large majority are suffering from a mental health illness of which they cannot afford their medication.
The criminal justice system needs to first accept these facts as truth and maybe, just maybe we can move past our egos and titles and have real meaningful reform. Maybe then our communities will start trusting us and start helping us get the real criminals off the street and not simply the ones that we think “look like” criminals. The act of silence by those in power have continued to perpetuate the mistakes of the past on the backs of the less fortunate and powerless. Lamonte McIntyre brought to light these issues here in Wyandotte County.
The McIntyre case is a symptom of a larger and scarier issue in our criminal justice system and across the nation. Many folks are familiar with this situation or one similar to it, a young 16-year-old boy accused of committing a gruesome crime, subpar investigations, a police officer with decades of corruption allegations, questionable actions by the prosecuting attorney, and a court-appointed defense attorney who is overwhelmed and underpaid, a swift conviction and then … case closed.
Ultimately, this case greeted me when I won an election that newspapers and people in power said I had no chance to win. I did not have the support of the police union, the political machine, previously elected officials, nor the media. I have something much deeper, my faith and a connection to everyday people who want a fair shake and are sick and tired of people in positions using their power to help their friends and screw everyday citizens.
The Lamonte McIntyre case revealed a glaring stain on the criminal justice system, and because of this revelation, my office created the first Conviction Integrity Unit in the state of Kansas. The mission of the Conviction Integrity Unit is to review legitimate claims of innocence or other compelling claims that warrant review based upon compelling evidence that such review is necessary in the pursuit of truth and justice. This is my ethical duty as a prosecutor and minister of justice.
Convictions of yesterday should hold integrity tomorrow, and if it does not, our system should act and not remain silent. This move was met with loud resistance from people in high political places. This was so unfortunate because it was an opportunity for individuals in leadership to actually lead and help everyday people and see justice at work.
Revolutions require people who have a “burning in their belly” to see justice manifest and are not willing to be silenced. With the help of the community and commissioners our unit was funded and is functioning to review other cases that may have been affected by the flaws in our system. Criminal justice reform will require people to hold their elected officials, community members, and children accountable. We all play a role, which is why I will release recommendations for comprehensive criminal justice reform in 2020. In these recommendations, I will discuss racial disparities, bond reform, equitability valuing and listening to all victims in our system (not only the well-connected), diversity and cultural training for people in positions of power, transparency in the process, and fighting for the trust of the communities we serve.
After months of investigation, research, interviews, and meetings with the victim’s families, I ignored the optics and adversaries and agreed to a hearing in the McIntyre case. The previous administration and leadership team refused to do this simple act for years.
During the court proceeding, I agreed with McIntyre’s attorneys to admit over 100 exhibits, written testimony, sworn affidavits, and other exhibits into the official court record. I then moved the case be dismissed because of the manifest injustice that was shown and was clearly documented in the court record, and the Judge agreed.
Criminal justice reform means progressing past politics and focusing on true justice. Pursuing justice requires courage … the courage to stand up, the courage to speak up, the courage to say no to the status quo even when they threaten your career, your family, and your future. Despite those threats, I proudly upheld my oath and fulfilled my duty in the McIntyre case. As any true “Dotte” knows we are bold, courageous, resilient and proud. It is my hope the state will ignore the optics and adversaries and allow justice to fully manifest for Mr. McIntyre.
Mark A. Dupree Sr.
Wyandotte County District Attorney