Updated 9:34 a.m. Oct 14
Kansas City, KS — Lamonte McIntyre was released from prison Friday afternoon, walking out of a Wyandotte County lockup after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he insists he did not commit. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree dropped the charges against McIntyre on Friday afternoon in the midst of a hearing to win McIntyre a new trial.
“It’s nice outside,” McIntyre said, his first words as a free man as he was welcomed by a crowd of supporters outside Wyandotte County courthouse.
Earlier Friday, Dupree said he was acting “in the interest of justice.” McIntyre had been convicted on the basis of two dubious eyewitness accounts in the 1994 shootings of Doniel Quinn, 21, and Don Ewing, 34, as they sat in a parked car in a depressed neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas.
The prosecutor dropped the charges after a whirlwind day-and-a-half of testimony in McIntyre’s hearing, shortly before McIntyre’s attorney, Cheryl Pilate, was prepared to call the trial judge, District Judge Dexter Burdette, to question him about a previous romantic relationship he had with the prosecutor that was not disclosed at trial.
In dropping the charges, Dupree said that he was not conceding wrongdoing on the part of Burdette, former assistant district attorney Terra Morehead, nor retired Det. Roger Golubski. Instead, Dupree said, he was acting to correct a “manifest injustice” based on evidence that the jury never heard that would have raised a reasonable doubt about McIntyre’s guilt.
Dupree had been in court briefly during the hearing that started Thursday. The Friday afternoon session was delayed, and Dupree then appeared in court armed with a statement in which he asked senior District Judge Edward Bouker to grant a new trial. Bouker promptly did so, after which Dupree said he was dropping the charges.
An audience of about 50 McIntyre family and supporters erupted in cheers.
Bouker, from Hays County in central Kansas, had been specially appointed to preside over the case because of the accusations of misconduct by officials in Wyandotte County, in which Kansas City, Kansas sits. Injustice Watch reported this week that the hearing on McIntyre’s case was expected to raise not only questions about his guilt, but about widespread problems in the local criminal justice system.
McIntyre was represented both at trial and at his post-conviction hearings by attorneys who failed to raise significant evidence and who both later were disbarred for failing to represent a series of clients. Years after he was convicted, James McCloskey of Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey organization that investigates wrongful convictions, took on the case and, ultimately, brought attorney Pilate onto the case.
The two, with assistance from the Midwest Innocence Project, gathered dozens of affidavits raising questions about the police, the prosecutor, the judge, and the defense attorneys.
Police arrested McIntyre within hours of the shotgun murders of Quinn and Ewing after a nearby resident, Ruby Mitchell, picked McIntyre’s photograph out of a photo array.
But Mitchell’s identification was confused, as she told police that she recognized the shooter as “Lamonte” because he had dated her niece. It turned out that Mitchell did not know McIntyre, and was thinking of a different “Lamont.”
The day after McIntyre was arrested, Detective Roger Golubski returned to the neighborhood and obtained a second identification from Niko Quinn, a cousin of one of victims. But from the time of the 1994 trial, Niko Quinn had tried to recant and contended that authorities had threatened her if she did not testify against McIntyre.
Family members of both victims had taken the stand in the first day of the hearing to insist that the wrong man had been arrested. After the charges against McIntyre were dropped, Ewing’s mother, Saundra Newsom, who had stayed to watch the proceedings, said that justice had finally been done. “I could not rest knowing how another mother was suffering” from the murders.
Newsom was referring to Rosie McIntyre, Lamonte’s mother, who had taken the stand before the lunch break Friday and was prepared to testify that Detective Golubski had forced her into a sexual act in his office, and that she had rebuffed his efforts at a continuing relationship. She told Injustice Watch in an interview before trial that she feared had she not turned down Golubski her son would not have been arrested.
There was no evidence that McIntyre knew the victims or had a motive, and relatives insisted he was with them, more than a mile away, the day of the shootings. No physical evidence connected him to the crime. Evidence at the hearing also indicated that a teenager nicknamed “Monster” had been hired by drug dealers to kill Quinn because they believed he had stolen drugs.
District attorney Dupree said after the hearing Friday that he could not say that McIntyre was innocent; only that there was not sufficient evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.
During the hearing Friday morning, a nationally-recognized expert in legal ethics testified of McIntyre’s trial, “This was not a fair trial.”
Lawrence J. Fox, who teaches ethics at Yale Law School, said the undisclosed former relationship between Burdette and Morehand in the case represented “serious, serious misconduct.”
“Nothing could taint a trial more than that kind of relationship,” Fox testified Friday, referring to the previous affair between the judge and the prosecutor creating the appearance of impropriety and, likely, an actual impropriety.
Fox said it was irrelevant that the relationship had ended three years before McIntyre went on trial. “The very fact that it went undisclosed,” said Fox, suggests there was something to hide. “I don’t think you can cure this without having a new trial.”
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Dupree said he was swayed by the testimony of several witnesses Thursday who insisted McIntyre was not the shooter, explaining their statements in court were more credible than what he read in their affidavits. He also said new allegations that came to his attention this week prompted him to drop the charges.
McIntyre’s attorney, Pilate, said the charges were dropped just as significant uncomfortable testimony about the local criminal justice system was about to take place. “I don’t believe there was much that came out [at the hearing] that hadn’t been in our motion file last year,” she said.
In the days before trial, the case began attracting significant attention by Injustice Watch as well as on a local television station, KCTV5, and on the podcast Wrongful Conviction.
Corrections officials worked to hastily permit McIntyre’s release after the charges were dropped. “God is great,” he said as he walked into freedom, and then embraced his mother.
“On the inside I’m bubbling over,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”