The photo is a joyful public pronouncement of justice delivered. McIntyre was set free earlier this month after serving 23 years for a double murder in Kansas City, Kansas, that he did not commit.
But the accompanying outline of his case makes clear that there’s more work to be done.
The National Registry of Exonerations monitors the approximately 30 conviction integrity units in the U.S. In recent years, such units have become a trend in criminal justice, vehicles for prosecutors to reexamine questionable cases and restore public trust. The units helped secure 225 exonerations between 2003 and 2016.
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After dropping the charges against McIntyre, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree Sr. announced his intention to form a conviction integrity unit within his office. This is crucial.
Outside attorneys and McIntyre’s dedicated mother secured his freedom. Dupree took the final step as a hearing got underway seeking a new trial.
Still, the facts of McIntyre’s case, particularly the troubling allegations of unethical misconduct by a now-retired police detective, raise many more questions that have not been answered.
Golubski was an officer for more than 30 years in Kansas City, Kansas, before joining the Edwardsville police department. Affidavits filed in McIntyre’s case describe incident after incident where Golubski is accused of using his badge to harass residents, colluding with known drug dealers and otherwise abusing his badge. This raises the possibility of other mishandled cases.
An integrity unit could look into other cases involving the retired detective, with subpoena power. Many of the same officers who worked with Golubski are still on the force, including Police Chief Terry Zeigler.
Conviction integrity units have been around since 2002, and unfortunately, it has been rare for anyone to be held responsible for the miscarriage of justice. The statutes of limitations have expired in some cases, and unethical conduct is not always criminal conduct.
Successful conviction integrity units receive referrals from a wide variety of people, including the public. Defense attorneys working with substantial oversight authority are also important, according to best practices outlined by the Innocence Project.
Some units are doing great work, performing autopsy-like reviews of cases, identifying where policy and protocol lead to a wrongful conviction and then pursuing reforms. In other places, though, they are window-dressing, accomplishing little. Half of the units have not obtained any exonerations.
Dupree should learn from other cities that are getting it right and take steps to create a conviction integrity unit. McIntyre’s exoneration cannot be the end of this story.
In Wyandotte County, public trust in the police and the judicial system is at stake.