Man who was wrongly imprisoned for 31 years gets $75 in compensation

Lawrence McKinney, 60, is now fighting for $1 million compensation. His lawyer said compensation cannot, however, give him him life back

Rachael Revesz
New York
Friday 16 December 2016 00:41
The state parole board has refused twice to recommend his exoneration since he was released in 2009
The state parole board has refused twice to recommend his exoneration since he was released in 2009

A man who spent more than three decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit is fighting to up his compensation after receiving just $75.

Lawrence McKinney, now 60, of Memphis, Tennessee, spent 31 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of raping a woman and stealing her television in 1978.

He was sentenced to 115 years in prison - 100 years for the rape and 15 years for the theft. He was released in 2009 after new DNA evidence found that he was not even on the scene.

Mr McKinney could be eligible for up to $1 million in compensation - the maximum - if the state’s parole board hears his exoneration case, which they have declined to do twice already.

Mr McKinney was issued just $75 upon his release in July 2009.

"I don’t have no life, all my life was taken away," he told CBS News.

His lawyer, Jack Lowery, said his client had suffered enough and justice would not be served via receiving compensation alone.

Mr McKinney’s attempt to be exonerated has been mired in red tape, although his record has been cleared.

In September, the seven members of the Tennessee parole board voted unanimously to deny hearing his exoneration case. The final word comes down to Republican governor Bill Haslam.

Mr Haslam’s press secretary, Jennifer Donnals, told The Tennessean that Mr Haslam received an executive clemency application on 21 November.


She said the governor’s office is carrying out a review of Mr McKinney’s application with the board’s recommendation, which is confidential. The governor can choose to agree or disagree with the board’s recommendation, or he can choose not to act.

If his case is approved, he will have the chance to clear his name.

One member on the parole board, Patsy Bruce, said she was still not sure he was innocent and voted against his exoneration.

It is the second time Mr McKinney has applied to be exonerated. Shortly after his release, the board voted against hearing his case and the then governor Phil Bredesen did not act on the application.

The Tennessee Board of Claims has only paid out exoneration claims twice since 2003.

Mr McKinney works at the Immanuel Baptist Church with the aim of becoming a preacher. One of his advocates is Republican state representative Mark Pody.

“Being exonerated would put me on a standard with everyone else in society. I didn’t get a chance to build a career or buy a home. I lost all my 20s, 30s and 40s, but I’m a servant of the Lord and any blessing I get I just want for my wife,” he told The Tennessean.

A petition calling for his exoneration has reached more than 10,000 signatures.

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