Lawrence McKinney lost 31 years of his life when he was falsely accused of rape and sentenced to 115 years in jail. On the night of October 2, 1977, a neighbor of McKinney’s was raped inside her apartment by two unknown men. The neighbor falsely identified McKinney and another man as being the individuals who assaulted her. Because of this accusation, the men were arrested on October 7, 1977 and charged with the sex crime.
At just 22-years-old, McKinney was sentenced on June 22, 1978 in Shelby County Criminal Court to essentially spend the rest of his life in jail. The victim that was gang raped, identified McKinney and another man as her attackers. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to jail.
But after three decades in prison, The Innocence Project, was able to have McKinney’s conviction overturned. The victim’s bed sheets were tested for DNA evidence and it revealed genetic stains from three people- the victim, McKinney’s co-defendant, and an unidentified third person. With the lack of DNA evidence linking him to the crime, McKinney’s conviction was overturned in 2008 and he was released from jail in July 2009.
Upon his release from jail, McKinney was given a check for $75 from the Department of Corrections of Tennessee. It has taken an additional five years to have his name cleared but McKinney is still unable to get an official exoneration from the state of Tennessee.
If the state of Tennessee were to exonerate him of a crime he didn’t commit, McKinney would be eligible to receive $1 million in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. So far, the Tennessee Board of Parole has unanimously (7-0) denied his bid for exoneration twice- once in 2010 and again in September 2016. His only hope for vindication now lies in the hands of Gov. Bill Haslam.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole, Melissa McDonald, released a press statement that said, “The (parole) 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.”
At the time of publication, Tennessee State. Rep. Mark Pody, has drafted legislation that would allow anyone who has spent 25 years or more in jail and has been cleared by DNA evidence, to go directly to the Tennessee Board of Claims and seek immediate compensation.