KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- After more than 23 years behind bars for a crime he never committed, a Kansas City, Kansas man is finally free.
Lemonte McIntyre spent his first day of freedom Saturday surrounded by friends and family.
"It's hard to describe. It's both happiness and sadness that it takes this long knowing that he'll go home," said Tricia Bushnell, director of the Midwest Innocence Project.
The Midwest Innocence Project and law professors at UMKC helped McIntyre and his team for over a year. Thursday, they finally saw their efforts and goals come to fruition after a judge in Wyandotte County exonerated McIntyre.
For the first time in more than two decades, McIntyre free was to hug his mom.
"Nobody thought it would happen this fast. We had another week of evidence to go," said UMKC law professor Sean O'Brien, who served as an advisor to law students helping with this case. "These cases never should have gotten that far."
McIntyre was convicted in 1994 for the deaths of Doniel Quinn and Donald Ewing, who were shot in broad daylight as they sat in a car. He was sentenced to two life sentences. McIntyre was 17-years-old.
"Think about it age 17 to 42 and all of that time is lost to him," said O'Brien. "A lot of our contemporaries over that time would have 401Ks and families. He's just getting readjusted."
Throughout the years McIntrye insisted he was innocent.
The case against him never included a motive, gun, or physical evidence that tied him to the crime. Only eyewitness identification, which Bushnell said is "a leading cause of wrongful convictions."
"What Lamonte experienced is horrific but what Lemonte experienced is one part of a very, very large experience that is happening to an entire community and that is something that needs to be looked into," she said.
In a statement sent out Friday, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree Sr. said he believes certain information wasn't available during McIntyre's first trial and if it was known then, it might have caused those jurors to have a reasonable doubt.
Kansas is one of 18 states that does not compensate individuals who have been wrongfully convicted. The Midwest Innocence Project is hoping to change that through legislation this year.