With Funding Secured, Conviction Integrity Unit Coming To Wyandotte County
The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, approved $162,000 of funding for a conviction integrity unit, $155,000 of which will go toward the salaries of the unit's three staff members.
The unit will be responsible for investigating alleged wrongful conviction cases, a task which previously fell on the district attorney's desk.
"Typically, we've given these cases to assistant district attorneys, who are already working on other cases. Then those cases are put on the back burner, and it takes years at a time for these to be solved," Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree said.
With a dedicated unit, Dupree said he will be able to make sure cases are properly vetted at the outset and then properly investigated.
"When you have the wrong person in custody, the right person, who committed the crime, is still committing harm in our community," Dupree said.
Additionally, Dupree announced Friday that going forward, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations will be brought on to investigate incidents in which a police officer kills a civilian or suspect. Should the district attorney's office come under any accusation, Dupree said another agency will prosecute.
"These types of investigations must be done dispassionately and incidents must be examined objectively," he said.
He said the public confidence is important and that now is the right time to buckle down.
Dupree first announced his interest in establishing a conviction integrity unit in November, after he agreed to drop charges against Lamonte McIntyre, a Kansas City, Kansas, man who was freed from prison after serving 23 years for a double murder he didn't commit.
Since he assumed the position in January 2017, Dupree has emphasized his interest in restoring the faith of the community in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Civil rights activist Alvin Sykes, president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, said he's been pleased to see Dupree living up to that promise since he took office.
"This is the example," Sykes said. "We have a good district attorney, who happens to be black, who happens to know this community and will be fair."
Dupree said he's identified 19 cases in need of closer inspection. He expects the unit to begin its work in November.