- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Kansas City Star, May 4

The jubilation is palpable now that Kansas is about to become the 33rd state to offer compensation to people who serve time for crimes they did not commit.

Assuming Gov. Jeff Colyer signs legislation passed this week, Kansas will pay $65,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment.

Reaching this point required perseverance, years of lobbying by advocates, painstaking legal work by attorneys and the moving testimony of three men who languished for years in prison, desperately trying to get someone to believe in their innocence.

The Kansas legislation was lauded as “gold star” by a national expert with the Innocence Project. It includes health care and education benefits and avoids convoluted processes that have complicated compensation in other states.



And yet, this juncture is not justice. That will come only when the people responsible for these wrongful convictions are held accountable in the cases of Lamonte McIntyre, Floyd Bledsoe and Richard Jones.

Efforts are moving forward slowly. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has initiated a preliminary review to determine if a criminal case can begin in the wrongful conviction of McIntyre, who served 23 years for a double murder in Kansas City, Kan.

The tale of how a then-17-year-old McIntyre wound up convicted, despite overwhelming evidence that he had nothing to do with the murders, involves chilling allegations of police corruption, a prosecutor’s intimidation tactics and an ethically compromised judge.

Roger Golubski was an officer for more than 30 years before joining the Edwardsville Police Department. In affidavits filed in pursuit of a new trial, Golubski is accused of using his badge to harass citizens, colluding with known drug dealers and retaliating when African-American women rebuffed his sexual advances.

Also implicated is Wyandotte County District Judge J. Dexter Burdette, who had a previously undisclosed romantic relationship with the prosecutor in the case. Terra Morehead, now a U.S. attorney, is believed to have disregarded witness testimony that would have exonerated McIntyre shortly after he was arrested.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr. turned over initial case documents describing the nature of the accusations against Golubski to the KBI in February, according to a bureau spokeswoman.

It took Dupree seven months to put the file together and involved traveling to several state prisons for interviews and combing through 20-year-old files. The work was complicated by the fact that the office does not yet have a conviction integrity unit that would reexamine questionable cases. Dupree is seeking the budget necessary to staff such a unit.

News that his case is being investigated was a relief to McIntyre. “Once they start digging, I know what will happen,” he said. “They will find all the mud and dirt.”

Indeed, corruption and malfeasance like the allegations swirling around Golubski do not exist in a vacuum.

Wyandotte County, with the help of the KBI, is embarking on what may become a protracted, extremely complicated hunt to separate fact from fiction. Some believe the investigative heft of the U.S. Department of Justice will be necessary.

If federal resources are required, that assistance should be welcomed.

The damage that wrongful convictions do to the justice system cannot be overestimated. Public trust will be restored by a thorough investigation, charges if warranted and by holding those responsible legally accountable.

Because we now know, the wrong people went to prison.

____

Lawrence Journal-World, May 7

The Kansas House was right to reject income tax breaks in its last act of the session.

It wouldn’t be prudent for the state to implement tax cuts until after the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s proposal for K-12 spending is adequate.

The Senate approved the cuts as part of a tax bill that squeaked by on a 21-19 vote Thursday night. The Senate bill included two tax cuts. For individuals, the bill would have allowed taxpayers to itemize deductions on state tax returns, even if they are no longer able to on their federal returns due to the new, higher standard deduction for federal taxes.

For large, multinational corporations that pay Kansas taxes, it provided an exemption for one year on any foreign assets that are repatriated back to the United States, something the new federal law incentivizes.

But the bill and the tax cuts failed in the House on a 59-59 vote since it needed at least 63 ‘yes’ votes to pass.

The tax cuts were designed to prevent the state from an unintended windfall as the result of a recent federal tax overhaul that President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress pushed through in December. Estimates of that windfall are roughly $105 million for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.

Earlier this month, lawmakers approved a bill that gradually increases annual spending on public education by $530 million in five years. Although that may seem significant, it is far short of the nearly $2 billion per year in new funding that a consultant hired by legislators said is needed.

Today, the state will pitch its new plan to the state Supreme Court, which has already ruled that Kansas’ current education funding is inadequate. If the court rules that the state’s plan remains inadequate and should be closer to the estimates provided by the consultant, lawmakers will need every bit of the windfall anticipated from federal tax cuts and more.

The state broached financial peril by overcommitting to tax cuts from 2012 to 2017. With so much financial risk still looming, it is premature to introduce new cuts. The House was right to stop short of backing the Senate’s tax proposal.

___

The Topeka Capital-Journal, May 5

Although legislation to grant restitution to wrongfully convicted Kansans will not be the signature measure adopted during the 2018 session at the Statehouse, the bill nonetheless reveals compassion that exists among state lawmakers.

Sometimes that quality gets lost and has this year during debates regarding faith-based adoption, which led to charges such legislation is discriminatory. In addition, discussions over additional funding for education or services protecting our most vulnerable citizens placed in foster homes and nursing homes often get branded as mean-spirited efforts when lawmakers are making tough decisions on how to best disperse appropriations.

The struggles in 2018 included late moves by some conservative lawmakers to push a tax reform bill after learning of a federal tax windfall, though estimates of future revenues, though optimistic, were indeed murky. The prospect of tax relief, remember, appeals to lawmakers, particularly during an election year, in spite of the devastating crunch state services absorbed with tax cuts imposed in 2012 as part of a plan endorsed by former Gov. Sam Brownback.

Was a valuable lesson learned from that so-called experiment? Perhaps not, especially when hearing rhetoric espoused by some gubernatorial candidates, namely Republican Kris Kobach, who advocate for another round of tax cuts to curb state spending. Yet in the case of the secretary of state, the inability to comply with court orders, which resulted in a contempt ruling, could prompt the use of state funds to pay his fines. The House at least initiated action to prevent such a boondoggle.

Yes, political gamesmanship is always alive and well in Kansas, and this year, with hotly contested gubernatorial primary races within both parties, campaign accusations could make the discourse in the Legislature seem tame.

Which is why, if only for a moment, it is worthwhile to again consider a bill that will finally enable wrongfully convicted citizens monetary reimbursement for periods of their lives they will never get back after they were regretfully placed behind bars. Imagine the agony some of those who were exonerated felt as they provided testimony that influenced lawmakers to make Kansas the 33rd state in the country to pass a law granting them compensation.

The pleas presented by those wrongfully convicted shape unanimous votes rarely recorded at the Statehouse - 119-0 in the House and 40-0 in the Senate - before the bill was sent to Gov. Jeff Colyer. Within the bill, provisions were made to offer tuition assistance and health insurance to eligible recipients, while also establishing a $65,000 payout for each year served in prison and $25,000 for each year on parole, post-release supervision or the sex offender registry.

Many who are given prison sentences often continue to proclaim their innocence, but this legislation actually allows relief for those who can prove wrongful convictions. The measure places more accountability on Kansas courts to make correct rulings. In addition, it provides financial amends for wrongful convictions. Previously, citizens who gained such release from prison received no state support while transitioning back into society.

Obviously, the bipartisan measure was all about doing the right thing. Lawmakers often feel as if they are acting on such beliefs, though their adherence to partisan objectives can lead to bitter disagreement and gridlock.

This was an instance when that did not happen and deserves to be applauded. Everyone should feel good about the consensus to assist those wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in an attempt to make such citizens whole again.

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