In 1978 a Tennessee man by the name of Lawrence McKinney was sentenced to 115 years in prison for rape and burglary crimes. There was only one problem… he didn’t do it.
In the late 70’s, forensic science wasn’t as advanced as it is today. Law enforcement wasn’t able to process evidence and discover the truth as well as they can now. And, let’s be honest, there was probably some racial bias at work, as McKinney is a black man. Either way, no one believed McKinney when he said he was innocent or, even worse, he couldn’t prove it. He would spend 31 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.
It wasn’t until 2008 that he was finally exonerated. He finally convinced them to run a DNA test on the evidence. And after they finally did, everyone was shocked by the results. It turns out that absolutely none of the DNA found on the victim’s sheets belonged to McKinney. If only they had had that technology when the trial first took place in 1978. McKinney was quickly released in July of 2008 and given an insulting $75 by the Tennessee Justice System.
But despite being happy to finally be a free man again, he wasn’t about to let this one go. He hired lawyers and set out for some proper justice for his wrongful imprisonment. But even with his release, the Tennessee Board of Parole was hesitant to accept the newly discovered DNA evidence. So the legal battle drew out for years.
Then, in 2016, a full 38 years after he was first found guilty of crimes he didn’t commit, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam officially exonerated McKinney. This now opened the doors for him to be compensated beyond the measly $75 he got when he was first released. And boy oh boy, was he ever compensated.
On March 21st of 2016, he could finally breathe a sigh of relief as the Tennessee Board of Claims awarded him $1 million for his suffering. It is the highest possible amount they are able to give. But it wasn’t all about the money for McKinney. More than anything he wanted to clear his name. And clear his name he did.
He is now a happily married man and enjoys staying involved at his church, Immanuel Baptist Church. What a wonderful life he was still able to find after unfairly being made to waste a majority of his life behind bars. I for one am just so happy that he’s finally happy. Congratulations, Lawrence.