KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s a tentative step forward for Wyandotte County’s Conviction Integrity Unit as the release of funding is set for a vote.
Religious and community leaders met Monday to push for the unit to be funded immediately. KCK Mayor David Alvey said that could happen within the next week.
“It’s time to reconcile the books. It’s time to tell the truth even when it is painful,” said the Rev. Rick Behrens of Grandview Park Presbyterian Church and MORE2 Kansas, which stands for the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equality.
Community leaders stood with Behrens to insist the funds be released so the district attorney’s office can begin a full audit of convicted cases.
“We certainly want to encourage them to release those funds and let us make our community and the law enforcement community work together,” said the Rev. Bobby Love, with the Kansas African American Affairs Commission.
The $300,000 for the program is currently tied up and waiting to be approved. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree believes it’s an important decision based on finding discrepancies in 19 out of 200 cases he looked over in anticipation of the unit’s creation.
They’re cases that might be similar to Lamonte McIntyre’s. He was released in 2017 after spending 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn’t commit.
“Twenty-three years of being separated from his family,” Love said. “Twenty-three years of not being connected to his community. Twenty-three years that was lost. So how do you tell that to an individual like that?”
“It would say volumes to the community about the willingness to overcome some of the problems that we’ve had in the past and create a new future for us — together,” Behrens said.
Alvey said the possible final approval of funds is set for Aug. 30 after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt reviewed the plan, something many in the community hopes is approved.
However, in July, law enforcement leaders wrote a letter to Schmidt urging him to review the plan before it’s approved. Those leaders include Wyandotte County Sheriff Donald Ash, KCK Police Chief Terry Zeigler and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I just want the AG to come back and say, ‘OK, yes, it`s a good idea, and it`s acceptable, but here are the guidelines you`re going to operate under.’ Not just, ‘Oh yeah, go do it.’ We want to know the process. We want to know there’s a check and balance,” Zeigler said at the time.