The courtroom erupted in simultaneous shock and joy. Lamonte McIntyre, wrongfully convicted in 1994 for a double-murder he never committed, wept at the defense table.
On Friday afternoon, just two days into what was expected to be a week-long hearing to consider McIntyre’s exoneration, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree Sr. flabbergasted the courtroom when he said the county would no longer contest the facts of McIntyre’s innocence.
McIntyre, arrested at age 17, had spent the past 23 years behind bars as part of two life sentences on two counts of murder.
He is now 41.
When McIntyre stepped from the north side of the Wyandotte County Courthouse and detention center on Friday afternoon, just before 4 p.m., his mother ran and then walked toward her son as he was swarmed by media.
“I’m all right. I’m happy, you know,” McIntyre said to reporters. “I’m here thanking God. I’m thanking everybody who supported me and been here for me. It feels good. I feel good. I’m happy.”
Then he saw his mother.
“This is what I’m waiting on right here,” he said, embracing his mother, Rosie McIntyre, who muttered, “Oh, my Lord.” He hugged his brother and others.
“We’re here. So that means support and love is active,” McIntyre continued. “I’m glad that everyone showed up out here to experience it with me. I appreciate it a great deal.”
Asked what he might want to do in his first few moments of freedom, McIntyre joked: “I thought I wanted to eat something, but my nerves are so shot I can’t even eat right now.
“I think I’m just going to take a bath and just chill for a minute, let it all soak in, I think. But whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to enjoy it. I’m excited. On the inside, I’m bubbling over. I feel emotional. It’s been a long time coming.”
Indeed, McIntyre has spent more time behind bars than free.
The 17-year-old McIntyre was arrested on April 15, 1994, in Kansas City, Kan.
In a four-day trial — held when he was 18 and thus trying him as an adult — he was given two life terms for the double murders of two individuals, Doniel Quinn, 21, and Donald Ewing, 34. The men had been sitting in a powder blue Cadillac on Hutchings Street when a killer with a shotgun blasted them inside.
McIntyre not only has resolutely maintained his innocence but also has consistently maintained that he never knew either Quinn or Ewing, who many believe were murdered by someone else as part of a drug-related killing.
The case against McIntyre, chronicled in 2016 by The Star, included no gun, no motive, no physical evidence whatsoever that tied him to the crime, and no evidence that he knew either victim. Nor was there evidence that the Kansas City, Kan., police at the time had searched for such evidence.
Instead, within hours of the crime — and based on the vague account of one witness who said the killer looked somewhat like a young man she knew with the name Lamonte — Lamonte McIntyre was arrested, despite alibis from family members who swore he had spent the day at home.
The only other witness against him was a woman in the neighborhood, a relative of the victims, who later recanted her testimony and said that she lied in identifying McIntyre because she was coerced by the then lead detective in the case, Roger Golubski. Golubski, who retired as a captain from the police force in 2010, has previously denied the allegation.
In their motion for exoneration, McIntyre’s counsel, led by Kansas City attorney Cheryl Pilate, raised serious allegations of misconduct on the part of Golubski and of then-Wyandotte County assistant prosecutor Terra Morehead, who is now a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas. Pilate also raised questions of bias in the original trial because of a past and undisclosed romantic relationship between Morehead and the Wyandotte County District judge presiding over McIntyre’s case, J. Dexter Burdette.
Morehead has never provided a statement regarding the allegations. Burdette, who has also never given a statement, had been scheduled to testify on Friday — but the McIntyre case ended before he took the stand.
In a press release, Dupree said that in vacating the case against McIntyre it was “not endorsing, certifying, agreeing, nor stipulating that any of those individuals or entities committed any wrongdoing.”
The statement began, however, “As prosecutors, our job … is to pursue justice, not simply convictions.”
In the case of the State of Kansas v. Lamonte McIntyre, “my office is requesting the Court find that manifest injustice exists.”
McIntyre’s family, friends and supporters were jubilant in the wake of the prosecution’s concession.
“I thank everybody who never gave up on my son,” Rosie McIntyre said outside the courtroom. “He (the judge) said, ‘You’re free.’ I almost hit the floor,” she said. “I want him to feel the sunlight.”
Asked if she could forgive those involved in the investigation and prosecution that led to her son’s conviction, Rosie McIntyre said: “I can never hate. I can never have animosity.”
McIntyre’s younger brother, Reginald, added that he felt “joy, joy. I’m trying to take it all in.”
Pilate, McIntyre’s attorney, was also overwhelmed by the county’s quick concession. She had worked for eight years, primarily with the Princeton, N.J.-based exoneration group, Centurion Ministries, to gather evidence to prove McIntyre’s innocence.
The hearing, before retired Judge Edward Bouker, who, in order to combat any bias, was brought in from Ellis County, Kan., had started Thursday and was anticipated to last as long as a week.
“It is an out-of-body experience,” said James McCloskey, the founder of Centurion Ministries, which has previously helped exonerate 58 individuals. “It’s just unreal. Today is (Friday) October 13th, which is a lucky day. When District Attorney Mark Dupree not only recommended to the judge he (McIntyre) get a new trial, but then dismissed all the charges, that’s never happened in a full swoop in any one of our cases.”
Pilate certainly did not anticipate it.
She said the moment came after court had recessed for lunch on Friday afternoon with the expectation of resuming around 1:30 p.m. She had planned to continue her questioning of Rosie McIntyre as a witness. Instead, the recess lasted until about 2:00 p.m. at the request of the district attorney’s office. When court resumed, Dupree announced the decision to vacate McIntyre’s conviction, causing the gallery to erupt.
“What’s my reaction? I’m stunned. I’m overwhelmed,” Pilate said outside the courthouse. Inside, during the announcement, McIntyre’s attorneys squeezed each others’ hands in celebration. “I very much hoped and prayed for a good outcome. I thought we would get there. I did not think it would end in this moment like this. ... I’m in a state of shock.”
Perhaps one of the most powerful and unique aspects of McIntyre’s case has been the support he has had not only from his own family and friends but also from the families of the victims in the case.
For 23 years, relatives of the victims have been highly vocal and public in asserting that McIntyre did not murder their loved ones and that his conviction, in 1994, was a miscarriage of justice.
Saundra Newsom, mother to Doniel Quinn, was been particularly vocal and steadfast in support of McIntyre.
“Let me just start by saying that tomorrow is my son’s birthday,” Newsom said Friday, who had grown over the years to be both a friend and ally of Rosie McIntyre. “He would have been 44. So my mind is that, ‘Thank you, Lord. ... We are at peace now.’”
Newsom said she has not visited her son’s graveside since his death. She vowed she would not until McIntyre, as another mother’s innocent son, was released.
“This journey is over, this chapter. So we now we can move forward,” Newsom said. Of her son’s graveside, she said, “I will be going, because now I can close the casket.”
Like others, Rosie McIntyre had no sense that her son would be freed on Friday. But they thought the hearing would, had it gone to the end of next week, resulted in her son’s release.
“I always believed,” Rosie McIntyre said.