KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Gov. Jeff Colyer stood on Tuesday in the modest sanctuary of Mount Zion Church of God in Christ to belatedly draw the hands of justice closer to Lamonte McIntyre, Richard Jones, Floyd Bledsoe and any other Kansan wrongfully convicted of a crime.
Bledsoe, of Burrton, along with the other men spent a minimum of 16 years in institutions operated by the Kansas Department of Corrections for serious offenses they didn’t commit. Each was part of a coordinated effort to build bipartisan support in the 2018 Legislature for a law signed by Colyer to financially compensate the unjustly convicted and extend to each health insurance, college tuition, housing assistance and other social services helpful to rebuilding a life.
“A great injustice was done to these three gentlemen,” Colyer said. “These three men showed compassion, they showed courage and they showed concern for other Kansans. These men stood up, and as Kansans, they were wise and gracious.”
Colyer, a surgeon from Johnson County who ascended to the governorship early this year, said the 16 years served by Jones and Bledsoe and the 23 years that McIntyre spent behind bars would have left most people defeated, consumed by anger or shattered inside.
“It would have turned us to madness,” the Republican said. “What I want to say to Lamonte McIntyre, to Floyd Bledsoe, to Richard Jones: We apologize to you, we love you and we will make it right.”
His signature on House Bill 2579 made Kansas the 33rd state to enact a wrongful conviction compensation statute. It was described by advocates as the “gold standard” for the nation. Individuals found by a court to meet the definition of wrongfully convicted would receive $65,000 for each year held on that conviction and $25,000 for each year wrongfully served on parole, probation or on a sex offender registry.