Is Lamonte McIntyre the only person who has been wrongfully convicted in Wyandotte County?
The system failed McIntyre, who was freed last week after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit, at every level. The serious misconduct that contributed to this miscarriage of justice should spur a re-examination of other questionable convictions in the county.
An independent investigation must begin, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI is already involved. Agents are talking with the legal team that worked diligently for eight years to exonerate McIntyre. In that process, many accounts of alleged police corruption stretching far beyond this one case emerged. People involved fear retaliation, even today.
Bear in mind that the justice system in Wyandotte County that wrongfully incarcerated McIntyre in 1994 did not act to set him free until forced to do so. Only after a hearing to consider McIntyre’s exoneration began and the stunning details of his conviction were recounted publicly did the county vacate the case.
The actions of three people responsible for putting McIntyre behind bars demand further scrutiny: the judge, the prosecutor and the former detective.
Wyandotte County District Judge J. Dexter Burdette had a previously undisclosed romantic relationship with the prosecutor in McIntyre’s case. Former Wyandotte County Assistant District Attorney Terra Morehead also disregarded witness testimony that would have exonerated McIntyre shortly after he was arrested as an innocent 17-year-old. He was set free as a 41-year-old man.
Morehead, who worked as a prosecutor in the county for 14 years, is now a U.S. attorney.
In affidavits from both criminals and police, former detective Roger Golubski has been accused of corruption, witness tampering and shoddy investigations. A retired FBI agent said Golbuski, who retired in 2010, used “the authority of his position to extort sexual favors from black females.”
Golubski, Morehead and Burdette should not be the only targets of an investigation, though. McIntyre’s wrongful conviction was allowed to happen within a much larger judicial system. He was not the only person convicted under that watch.
Gross misconduct doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Others are usually complicit.
District Attorney Mark A. Dupree, Sr., who dropped the charges against McIntyre as last week’s hearing got underway, should follow through on discussions to establish a conviction integrity unit. Properly staffed and empowered, such units can take a clear-eyed look at questionable cases.
Dupree, who took office in January, inherited this judicial nightmare. But now, it’s his responsibility to rebuild community trust.
The district attorney will need the cooperation of many in Wyandotte County: Chief of Police Terry Zeigler, Mayor Mark Holland, people previously and currently incarcerated and the broader community.
Action must be taken to restore the credibility of the justice system in Wyandotte County. And finally, the gunman suspected of committing the murders for which McIntyre was convicted, must be charged. Justice has not yet been done in the killing of Doniel Quinn and Donald Ewing.
In fact, the quest for truth in Wyandotte County has just begun.