Could Lamonte McIntyre be freed after 23 years in prison?
On the day Lamonte McIntyre was sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison, he said just 13 words to the court:
“Judge, I would like to tell the court that I’m innocent. That’s all.”
On Thursday, more than two decades later, McIntyre’s family and friends poured into a Wyandotte County courtroom for a hearing where his conviction is being called into question.
McIntyre, now 41, smiled at the approximately 50 friends and relatives who had assembled in the courtroom as he entered.
He’s an innocent man who has languished in prison for 23 years after a wrongful conviction for murdering two people, his loved ones say. In a rally outside the courthouse beforehand, they chanted: “I say free, you say Lamonte.”
The hearing came after a motion by McIntyre’s legal team, including KC attorney Cheryl Pilate and representatives from the Midwest Innocence Project and Centurion Ministries Inc., organizations whose missions are to free those wrongfully convicted.
Pilate and Centurion have been researching the case for about eight years.
“Lamonte McIntyre is innocent,” were some of the first words Pilate uttered in her opening statement.
She plans to call dozens of witnesses over the course of the hearing. The witnesses called Thursday included a relative of an eyewitness of the crime, a victim’s mother, a forensic expert and an investigator with Centurion.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge could vacate McIntyre’s conviction, setting him free.
“It was a like a blur,” said McIntyre’s younger brother, Jermaine, of his brother’s arrest and trial decades ago. “He’s been gone so long. ... I got kids of my own he never saw.”
Rose McIntyre, McIntyre’s mother, said her prayer for the past two-plus decades has been the release of her son.
“I’m tired of seeing the inside of a prison,” she said.
Lamonte McIntyre was 17 years old when police in Kansas City, Kan., slapped handcuffs on his wrists and put him away for two life terms for a gruesome double murder. He has insisted ever since that he is innocent.
Not even the relatives of those victims — Donald Ewing, 34, and his younger cousin, Doniel Quinn, 21, who were shot to death as they sat in a powder blue Cadillac on the afternoon of April 15, 1994 — believe McIntyre is guilty.
For decades they have insisted he was railroaded into prison and needs to be released.
Saundra Newsom, Quinn’s mother, was in attendance Thursday. She believes McIntyre is innocent.
“I just hope that we just do the right thing and let him out,” she said while testifying. “Let him find a life. Let him be at peace. Let us be at peace.
“I can’t believe we live in a county where we treat a person or people the way we’ve been treated,” she said. “It’s horrible.”
The case was built without physical evidence and on the police work of a corrupt officer, McIntyre’s attorneys, investigators and witnesses claimed.
Roger Golubski, the detective who worked the McIntyre case for the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, and other investigators issued no search warrants, arrested McIntyre after 19 minutes of interviews, did not conduct a thorough forensic investigation, did not interview key subjects or ever discover a link between McIntyre and the victims, according to testimony. No gun was ever recovered.
Another relative of the victims and a witness, Josephine Quinn, said in an affidavit that she told the prosecutor during the trial, Terra Morehead, that McIntyre was the wrong man.
Morehead told her, according to Quinn’s affidavit, that “it was too late for her to do anything, that the jury was deliberating. It was in the hands of the jury.”
Niko Quinn, another witness, has long said she lied during McIntyre’s trial by naming him as the perpetrator. She later said she was pressured to do so. Morehead threatened to take away her children, she said in an affidavit, if she didn’t cooperate. Pilate told The Star the same thing last year, and Morehead had no comment on those allegations.
The victims’ family and investigators believe Neil Edgar Jr., known as “Monster,” is the real shooter.
James McCloskey, the founder of Centurion who has studied the McIntyre case for nearly a decade, testified that Doniel Quinn was targeted because he was accused of stealing drugs.
A friend of Edgar’s, Cecil Brooks, told McCloskey that Edgar made $500 for the killing. Edgar is serving a 33-year sentence in a Missouri prison for an August 2000 murder.
“Monster did the murders,” Cecil Brooks told McCloskey.
The state of Kansas is being represented by District Attorneys Jennifer Tatum and Francis Gipson, and Tatum questioned why McCloskey didn’t record his interview with Brooks. McCloskey said he rarely recorded interviews.
Tatum also asked why he didn’t allow Brooks to draft the affidavit in which he is attributed saying Edgar was the killer, and why Brooks later declined to sign the statement.
McCloskey said he often drafts affidavits for witnesses because they may not be familiar with their format, and that Brooks didn’t sign it because he was scared of repercussions.
Brooks had nothing to gain from naming Edgar as the killer, McCloskey said.
Ronald Singer, a forensic scientist with the Tarrant County (Texas) Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that while the crime scene was initially investigated appropriately, detectives failed to follow up with basic checks often made in homicide investigations.
They did not, to Singer’s knowledge based on his review of the case file, test McIntyre’s clothes for glass or blood from the crime scene. They did not search his home for the shotgun used in the crime. In fact, they made no attempts to find any concrete link that would put McIntyre at the scene, Singer said.
“Hard forensic evidence can either refute or support what witnesses say. In that regard it’s vital to a case,” he said.
Tatum briefly questioned Singer, asking him about advancements made in forensics from the ’90s compared with today. Singer said that although there have been advancements, the actions detectives omitted in McIntyre’s case should have been pursued.
McCloskey testified that the Centurion organization has helped free 58 people.
He began working on McIntyre’s case in 2009.
Pilate asked him during the hearing what factors led to wrongful convictions.
He listed erroneous eyewitness identifications, perjury, prosecutorial misconduct and faulty forensic science.
“Race can certainly be a factor (too),” he added. “A person of color, in our view, has two strikes against him or her.”
McCloskey expressed shock that detectives ignored the many people who told them they had the wrong man in McIntyre.
“This case has four family members of the victim, all of whom know that the police arrested the wrong man, and they told police they arrested the wrong man,” he said on the stand. “We’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen that. It stunned me. How could you not listen to the loved ones who witnessed this traumatic, broad daylight slaying of these two people?”
McCloskey said he interviewed about 15 of the victims’ relatives, all of whom said they believed McIntyre was innocent.
He also said he interviewed about 100 KCK community members, and every one said they were familiar with Golubski.
The detective used confiscated drugs to force women to have sex with him, McCloskey said he learned. It was an open secret in the community, he added — and one reason why those who believed in McIntyre’s innocence didn’t more quickly or forcefully tell the KCK Police Department what they knew.
Golubski asked inappropriate questions of Newsom and Ruby Mitchell, a key witness in the case, according to the women.
Newsom testified that the detective asked if she dated white men during a visit to her home after her son was killed.
And in a 2011 affidavit, Mitchell said that while being driven to the police station, “Detective Golubski ... told me that he thought I was pretty and had a nice figure. He said he liked to go out with black women. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and did I date white men.”
McCloskey said Mitchell told detectives that she knew of McIntyre because he had been seeing her daughter. But detectives didn’t question her daughter to corroborate the claim until the eve of the trial.
“He (Golubski) did not investigate whatsoever,” McCloskey said. “He got that photo ID from Ruby Mitchell and later got it from Niko (Quinn), and that was case closed.”
In the past, Golubski has not addressed questions about the case.
Detectives never established any connection between the victims and McIntyre, McCloskey added, and arrested him hours after the crime.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” McCloskey said.
A year ago in October, The Kansas City Star’s special project “No Justice” chronicled the details of the crime, and the evidence that Pilate says proves McIntyre’s innocence.
In upcoming days, the case is expected to further call into question the ethics and honesty of two prime figures in the case. They are the lead detective at the time, Golubski, who retired as a captain from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department in 2015, and Morehead, who is now a U.S. attorney in Kansas.
To guard against local bias, Edward E. Bouker, the retired chief district judge from Ellis County District Court in Hays, Kan., is presiding over the hearing.
Newsom, during her testimony, turned to Bouker and urged him to release McIntyre.
“You can’t give my son back, but you can give him (McIntyre) back to his mother,” Newsom said. “For those who had the chance to make this right and didn’t, I hope they can sleep. I hope they can sleep.”
The hearing is scheduled through next Friday.