The state’s former governor explicitly apologized to McIntyre while signing a bill designed to help wrongfully convicted individuals–but now the state attorney general’s office is holding back a payout.
Kansas is pushing back against Lamonte McIntyre, a former convict who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide he didn’t commit.
The Associated Press reports that McIntyre’s conviction was secured in spite of there being a complete absence of physical evidence tying him to the crime. More than that, prosecutors couldn’t even spell out a cogent motive.
Under a state law passed year, wrongfully convicted prisoners can receive $65,000 for each year they spent behind bars. Along with a financial pay-out, exonerated individuals are eligible for health insurance benefits, financial assistance and educational support.
McIntyre’s case was, in fact, one of three which spurred the Kansas State Legislature to act. When signing the bill into law, then-Gov. Jeff Colyer publicly apologized to McIntyre, pledging that “we will make it right.”
According to the A.P., the state attorney general’s office will support compensation claims for two other men. But it’s resisting McIntyre’s demands for recompense, saying it found “the record of prior judicial proceedings” to be “insufficient.”
Cheryl Pilate, an attorney for McIntyre, said there’s no reason to believe the attorney general’s reluctance is reason to believe his case is lost.
“What it means is we have another year of litigation ahead of us and that the purpose of the act—which was to provide swift relief and assistance to unjustly convicted people who were just released from prison—is defeated,” Pilate told The Associated Press. “The whole purpose of the statute is to avoid this kind of situation, to avoid something that is akin to a civil lawsuit in terms of its complexity and the length of time it takes to resolve.”
McIntyre—now 43 years old—told a local station he’s not going to give up, even if he is let down.
“I’m frustrated because I feel like this is not something I have to continue to fight for,” he said, “but I’m going to continue to fight for it if I have to.”
Tricia Bushnell, who leads the Midwest Innocence Project—which helped exonerate McIntyre—voiced similar concerns about the need for protracted litigation.
“I think people should be upset,” she said. “Everybody got to feel really good about it, but here we are today, and it’s unclear if Lamonte McIntyre, one of the individuals the bill was passed for, is going to get compensated.”
Bushnell specifically criticized the attorney general’s office.
“I find it, quite frankly, just appalling,” she said. “It’s not just that they lost years. They lose opportunities. They lose family members—all of the things that we take for granted.”
The attorney general has specified that it hasn’t explicitly rejected McIntyre’s claims—instead, it’s just insisting that a longer process be followed.