Hey, Kansas: You owe Lamonte McIntyre. Big time.
Something is horribly wrong with a criminal justice system that places an innocent man behind bars for 23 years for a double murder he didn’t commit. We can all agree on that.
But what should the state do to compensate this man? After all, McIntyre must now navigate a strange new world. He most likely has little money, no employment history for the past 23 years and little-to-no knowledge of technologies that didn’t exist when he was arrested on that day in 1994 when he was just 17.
Right now, the state of Kansas says its obligation to McIntyre is a big fat nuthin’. That’s simply unacceptable when one considers the massive injustice that McIntyre of Kansas City, Kansas, has been forced to endure.
The first order of business when lawmakers convene again in Topeka come January should be to rectify this wrong and offer McIntyre a measure of justice that has for more than two decades eluded him. They should pass a bill that would compensate McIntyre and other wrongly convicted inmates in the years to come.
Kansas today is just one of 18 states that offers the wrongly convicted no compensation for time wasted behind bars. Even Texas, which leads the nation with 544 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, offers former prisoners $80,000 a year plus reintegration aid and other assistance.
Alabama offers a minimum of $50,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration and the possibility of more. In California, the maximum award is $140 for each day of wrongful imprisonment. In Florida, which leads the nation with 27 death row exonerations since 1976, the award is $50,000 per year.
Missouri offers a modest $50 a day, which amounts to $18,250 a year.
Apparently Kansas has been bothered by its collective conscience because the state has considered two measures the last couple years, which would have rectified this inequity. Neither bill, though, got very far.
Floyd Bledsoe can tell you all about it. The one-time Oskaloosa, Kansas, man was convicted in 2000 for the kidnapping and murder of his sister-in-law, Camille Arfmann, in his hometown. Sentenced to life in prison, Bledsoe was released in 2015 after a DNA test and suicide notes showed that his brother, Tom Bledsoe, did the killing.
In 2016, Rep. Ramon Gonzalez, a Perry Republican, introduced a measure that would have made Bledsoe eligible for $235,000 in compensation. The formula used was based on the federal minimum wage.
Gonzalez’s bill died in committee, despite Bledsoe’s impassioned testimony. “I ask you, and I plead with you this morning. Pass this bill, not just for my sake, but for the sake of other people.”
The state has another issue on its hands — the health of its own criminal justice system. The case against McIntyre included no gun, no motive and no physical evidence. A key witness in the case recanted her testimony and said the lead detective in the case had coerced her. The prosecutor, who now works in the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas, once had an undisclosed romantic relationship with the judge in the case.
The system failed Lamonte McIntyre over and over again. And while nothing can make up for 23 lost years, a lump sum would be a start.