A Tennessee man, Lawrence McKinney, 61, served 31 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, asked for $1 million dollars for all those years wasted behind bars, and they gave him $ 75 bucks.
McKinney was arrested back in 1978 for an October, 1977 rape and burglary that occurred in Memphis. The woman was raped by two suspects and she later identified her neighbor, McKinney, as one of them.
McKinney was only 22 at the time and was convicted and sentenced to 115 years in prison in 1978.
In 2008, DNA evidence cleared McKinney of his charges and he was released in 2009.
To help restart his life, the Tennessee Department of Corrections gave him a check for 75 dollars, a check he couldn’t even cash until he could get ID three months later.
McKinney has asked the Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to exonerate him, however to do that, he has to go through the Tennessee Board of Parole, which then makes recommendations to the governor. McKinney’s request was denied by a 7-0 vote at a hearing this past September.
McKinney hoped a formal exoneration could open a pathway to $1 million in compensation from the state Board of Claims for the 31 years McKinney spent wrongfully imprisoned.
Melissa McDonald, spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole, said, “The board reviewed all relevant information related to the crime, conviction and subsequent appeals, as well as all information provided by the petitioner. After considering all of the evidence, the board did not find clear and convincing evidence of innocence and declined to recommend clemency in this matter.”
One of McKinney’s attorneys, Jack Lowery, believes the decision should rest solely with Governor Haslam.
Lowery said, “The parole board is not qualified to make these decisions and should not. For the parole board to step in when many (of them) are not trained in the law is ridiculous.
The parole board also listed 97 infractions that McKinney had while he was in prison, including an alleged assault of a fellow inmate who testified against McKinney at the hearing.
John Hunn, McKinney’s pastor, said “Lawrence told that story at our church. He doesn’t deny that story. He was in prison, man.”
The parole board also saw that 28 years into his sentence, McKinney admitted to the burglary charge he was convicted of.
McKinney said his lawyers told him that if he wanted an early release he would need to admit to something.
Tennessee’s governors have only granted two exonerations in the past 16 years, and both were in January 2011.
McKinney is married to a pen pal he had while in prison and said he is just trying to salvage whatever is left of his life. McKinney has this to say;
“Although I’ve spent more than half of my life locked up for a crime I did not do, I am not bitter or angry at anyone, because I have found the Lord and married a good wife,” McKinney said. “All I ask is that I be treated right and fair for what has happened to me. I didn’t do nothing, and I just want to be treated right.”
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