The Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office has hired an attorney to lead its Community Integrity Unit following the layoff of its three employees last year, The Star has learned.
Attorney Mark Kind was hired on March 31 with a salary of $88,192, according to employment data obtained by The Star via a Kansas Open Records Act request. He is listed as a senior assistant district attorney and, two sources confirmed, oversees the unit responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct and potential wrongful convictions.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Kind referred The Star to DA spokesperson Jonathan Carter, who in an email said “no interviews” with Kind would be available. A few weeks ago, when asked by The Star who ran the unit, Carter said the DA’s office “does not discuss personnel matters.”
Kind was hired 10 months after the DA’s office in May 2021 fired two unit employees for making remarks that violated the office’s code of conduct. The firings came as KCTV5 released secret tapes recorded by a third employee, who was fired before the other two, which revealed members of the unit made disturbing comments, including about black people.
Some of the recordings were particularly troubling, given that black people are seven times more likely than white people to be wrongfully convicted of murder, according to a report by the National Clearance Registry.
The firing left the unit, known as the CIU, empty.
After the layoffs, District Attorney Mark Dupree wrote in a column for The Star that he was “committed to creating a work culture free of homophobia, sexism and bigotry.” He said an outside agency would step in to review the cases handled by the dismissed employees.
The district attorney’s office did not announce Kind’s hiring. When asked if Dupree wanted to comment, her rep responded in an email, “No, thank you.” Dupree did not return a voicemail left on her cellphone Thursday.
Prosecutors in other parts of the country have released the names of lawyers who run similar units. In Wayne County, Michigan, whose county seat is Detroit, the DA lists contact information for the director of its Belief Integrity Unit. This warden, whose unit helped free 30 prisoners deemed wrongfully convicted, has also been quoted in numerous reports.
There are dozens of SDIs housed in the offices of prosecutors and attorneys general across the country as part of a growing trend of working with Innocence Projects to prevent and identify wrongful convictions. In recent years, CIUs have played a vital role in dozens of exonerations as prosecutors seek to correct errors.
Dupree’s CIU was created after the exoneration of Lamonte McIntyre, who was released in 2017 after serving 23 years in prison for a double murder in Kansas City, Kansas, which he did not commit. The following year, Dupree secured Unified Government funding for the unit.
Since then, Dupree’s unit has had one exoneration under its belt: the release of Olin “Pete” Coones, an innocent man who spent 12 years in prison. Coones died 108 days after his release from undiagnosed cancer behind bars.
Prior to his current role, Kind was hired in 2014 as an associate at the Kansas City law firm Morgan Pilate, according to an issue of KU Law Magazine. He focused on “criminal, civil, appellate, and habeas corpus litigation, drafting, research, and investigation, including actions in federal, Missouri, and Kansas courts,” said noted the University of Kansas alumni magazine.
Kind was listed as one of McIntyre’s attorneys in a 2016 court filing as he tried to prove his innocence.
McIntyre and his mother in 2018 sued Wyandotte County, alleging former KCK police detective Roger Golubski framed McIntyre because his mother rebuffed Golubski’s sexual demands. UG commissioners voted Thursday to settle the lawsuit for $12.5 million.
Darryl Burton, who spent 24 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a murder in St. Louis, said Kind called him after he was hired at CIU. Burton, who with McIntyre co-founded Miracle of Innocence, an Overland Park-based organization that aims to help the exonerated, said he looked forward to working with Kind and described him as someone who believes in “doing what is just “.
Lora McDonald, executive director of the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, an interfaith social justice organization that applied for CIU funding when it was founded, said Kind was the right kind of lawyer for the job. She called him “a person of integrity who seeks justice”.
“It’s promising,” McDonald said, later adding, “It’s got to be someone who actually believes these systems are failing.” And so, I know to be at least part of his background and repertoire is to understand that sometimes these systems fail people.
This story was originally published July 1, 2022 5:00 a.m.