Lawrence McKinney knows true peace. Love this guy!... https://t.co/4xEuAAC5Cr— Adam White (@TNTourGuide) December 18, 2016
An African American man was just 22 when he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Now 31 years later, all he’s gotten for his suffering is $75.
Lawrence McKinney, now 61, a resident of Tennessee, was sent to Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in 1978 when a Memphis woman alleged he was one of the two people who broke into her home and raped her. McKinney was convicted of rape and burglary charges and sentenced to 115 years in prison.
However, after long overdue DNA evidence ruled him out as a suspect, he was released from jail in 2009 with a check of $75 to rehabilitate himself.
The man could be eligible for $1 million in compensation but his request to be exonerated has been denied.
In September, the parole board voted 7-0 to deny him exoneration.
“The (parole) board reviewed all relevant information related to the crime, conviction and subsequent appeals, as well as all information provided by the petitioner,” said Melissa McDonald, spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole. “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.”
John Hunn, McKinney’s pastor, said the board cited a list of 97 infractions while McKinney was in jail, which included assaulting a fellow inmate. McKinney admitted these claims, but told the board that he had no choice as “only the strong survive” in prison.
He also admitted to burglary charges 28 years into his sentence on the advice of his lawyers.
Now McKinney is trying for a second attempt at exoneration and it is up to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to decide whether he is innocent.
McKinney’s lawyer, Jack Lowery, said the man had suffered enough and should receive compensation for 31 years behind bars.
“It is not justice for him not to receive compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned,” Lowery told the NY Daily News.
Since his release, McKinney has worked hard to turn his life around. He married a pen pal, attends church devoutly and has the support of his community.
“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.”
An online petition has also been started in support of McKinney and calls on Gov. Haslam “to do the right thing.”
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