KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man who was imprisoned for 23 years for a double murder in Kansas that he always said he didn't commit was expected to be released from prison Friday after the district attorney dropped the charges, concluding new information would likely cause jurors to have reasonable doubt about his guilt.
Lamonte McIntyre, 41, was serving two life sentences for the 1994 murders of Doniel Quinn, 21, and his cousin, Donald Ewing, 34. They were shot in broad daylight as they sat in a car in a drug-infested neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas.
A hearing began Thursday in Wyandotte County to reconsider McIntyre's conviction. It was scheduled to continue through most of next week but District Attorney Mark Dupree issued a statement Friday asking the court to find that a "manifest injustice" existed in the case and then dismissing the case altogether.
Dupree, who took office in January, said information from investigators, McIntyre's attorneys and many witnesses prompted his decision.
"I believe that had (the information) been presented to the jury in the 1994 trial that convicted Mr. McIntyre, it may certainly have caused those jurors to have reasonable doubt as to Mr. McIntyre's guilt," Dupree said in the statement.
McIntyre was 17 when police in Kansas City, Kansas, arrested him for the murders. Investigators who worked the case issued no search warrants, arrested McIntyre after 19 minutes of interviews, did not conduct a thorough forensic investigation, did not interview key subjects or ever discover a link between McIntyre and the victims, according to testimony. No gun was ever recovered.
Rose McIntyre, McIntyre's mother, thanked the many supporters who gave her strength since her son was arrested, The Kansas City Star reported.
"I want him to feel the sunlight," she said. "I thank everybody who never gave up on my son. He (the judge) said, 'You're free.' I almost hit the floor."
Cheryl Pilate, the lead attorney who spent eight years researching the McIntyre case, said the case had hurt many people in the community.
"We're all still wiping tears and grabbing each others' hands and trying to get our hearts to stop pounding," Pilate said. "Lamonte is going to be breathing free air for the first time in 23 years and we want him to enjoy this transition in whatever way feels best for him."
Testimony and earlier reports alleged there was misconduct on the part of the police, the lead investigator, the district attorney at the time and the judge who heard the case. Dupree said his decision was not a ruling on those allegations but only a conclusion on whether the 1994 jury's decision might have been different if it had heard all the evidence.
McIntyre's case returned to court after a motion by his legal team, including Pilate and representatives from the Midwest Innocence Project and Centurion Ministries Inc., which work to free those wrongfully convicted.
Quinn's mother, Saundra Newsom, testified Thursday that she didn't believe McIntyre killed her son.
"I just hope that we just do the right thing and let him out," she said while testifying. "Let him find a life. Let him be at peace. Let us be at peace."
Two witnesses to the crime said in affidavits that the told the prosecutor in the case that McIntyre was the wrong man. One, Niko Quinn, said was pressured to lie and name McIntyre as the perpetrator.
James McCloskey, the founder of Centurion, testified that Doniel Quinn was targeted because he was accused of stealing drugs. The victims' family and investigators believe a man currently serving a 33-year sentence in Missouri for a 2000 murder was paid $500 to kill the two men.
Ronald Singer, a forensic scientist with the Tarrant County (Texas) Medical Examiner's Office, testified Thursday that investigators didn't test McIntyre's clothes for glass or blood from the crime scene, or search his home for the shotgun used in the crime. They also made no attempt to find a link that would put McIntyre at the scene, Singer said.
McCloskey expressed shock that detectives ignored the many people who told them they had the wrong man.
"It stunned me," he said on the stand. "How could you not listen to the loved ones who witnessed this traumatic, broad daylight slaying of these two people?"
Information from: KMBC-TV, http://www.kmbc.com