Kansas police agencies oppose innocence case reviews
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police agencies in northeastern Kansas are opposing a proposal from the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office to study potential wrongful conviction cases.
Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree recently sought $162,000 from the Unified Government Board of County Commissioners to create a Conviction Integrity Unit, The Kansas City Star reported . The unit would investigate claims of innocence, prosecutorial misconduct and law enforcement error.
The commission has committed to funding the unit, Dupree said.
Kansas City Police Chief Terry Zeigler, Wyandotte County Sheriff Donald Ash and Fraternal Order of Police representatives wrote a letter to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office opposing the unit.
The letter said the unit is a “clear deviation from the criminal justice system’s handling of manifest injustice claims.” Any cases that are mishandled would put communities at risk and could have adverse economic consequences, the letter said.
State lawmakers recently passed legislation that would compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted.
Dupree’s office said Tuesday that the unit would follow Kansas law. The pursuit of justice for potentially innocent inmates should outweigh concerns of economic costs, Dupree said.
“Ensuring justice for the citizens of Wyandotte County through the (Conviction Integrity Unit) must be paramount,” he wrote.
The law enforcement officials also expressed concerns over the possibility that law school interns with little experience would handle some case reviews. Dupree said that while interns would be involved in preliminary research, cases that need a deeper look would be handled by the professional unit.
Dupree said his office has already identified 19 cases that could be reviewed. His office is working with the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence and the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com