Justice is justice.
Lamonte McIntyre, of Kansas City, Kan., spent more than two decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Justice was denied him.
Last year, Kansas finally passed an important law providing for compensation for those who had been wrongfully convicted. According to the Innocence Project, which works to clear the names of those wrongfully convicted, it was the 33rd state to do so.
But justice is justice.
McIntyre could now be paid about $1.5 million for the lost decades of his life. Others who were wrongfully convicted have been made whole — or as whole as possible — by the state. However, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has denied McIntyre’s claim under the new law, saying his innocence isn’t proven. Future legal action looks sadly certain.
That’s despite the words of former Gov. Jeff Colyer, who told McIntyre and others last year that “We will make it right.”
Surely, justice is justice.
Schmidt’s action is outrageous. The law was passed by legislators to solve a problem. McIntyre wasn’t tied to the crime by any physical evidence and he had no motive. According to reports about the case, witnesses against him said they were coerced. That is the definition of a miscarriage of justice.
There is much to write about the justice system in Kansas and the nation. Calls for reform have swept through the country, reducing many sentences. Overall, we have begun to seriously examine what our courts and prisons are for, and how we can best serve public safety and those who enter the system. These are difficult questions that require thoughtful and comprehensive answers.
But McIntyre’s situation doesn’t pose difficult questions. It poses a simple moral one. Does the state owe a man for depriving him of 23 years of free life? Does the state, with its awesome power of incarceration — and even death in some cases — have a responsibility to truth?
Three times now, Derek Schmidt has taken the oath of office to serve as the state’s attorney general. Three times now, he has stepped up to take his crucial role in the Kansas justice system. He has been elected to serve 12 years. That’s a long time, but it’s still 11 years less than Lamonte McIntyre served.
Justice is justice.
Schmidt should end this now. The state should pay McIntyre what he’s owed.