In his 18 months in office, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree Sr. said he has heard from about hundreds of people in prison or from their families who claim wrongful convictions.
Now, his office will have the funding and staff to look into some of those claims.
A spokesman for the Unified Government Commission said the district attorney’s office will receive two payments of about $167,000 each in the fourth quarter of 2018 and fourth quarter of 2019 for a new conviction integrity unit.
Dupree said at a press conference Friday that his office expects to hire three people for the unit: a full-time senior attorney, a part-time investigator and a part-time assistant.
He also said that after a cursory review of the claims, 19 deserved further examination.
“Over 99 percent of those cases are dismissed and are denied because the conviction holds that integrity, but we have many more cases we have to review,” Dupree said. “If in that 1 percent we find that there was a mistake made, and that it did not happen the way it was said, then we will have the ability to correct that and to make sure that that person is no longer wrong.”
Dupree has previously cited the case of Lamonte McIntyre as a reason to create the unit. McIntyre’s convictions for a 1994 double murder were thrown out last October after a judge ruled he had been the victim of manifest injustice.
The Wyandotte County unit’s staff will work with law school students from the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City to help identify cases to examine.
In Friday’s news conference, Dupree also touched on investigations surrounding officer-involved shootings.
The district attorney said investigations of police shootings resulting in the death of a citizen or suspect will be conducted jointly or by an outside agency make sure “that the decisions that are made are validated,” he said.
“There is nothing better than ... integrity and transparency in our criminal justice system,” he said.