In 1978, Lawrence McKinney was found guilty of rape and burglary in Tennesse. Despite continuously maintaining his innocence, McKinney remained in prison for 32 years. It wasn’t until 2009, at the age of 52 that McKinney got the chance to breathe fresh air as a free man.
McKinney was granted his freedom after DNA evidence cleared him of the crimes he’d been accused of. Nashville Attorney David Raybin who has represented McKinney for the last six years says the $1 million compensation and his freedom has been a long fought battle.
“I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 40 years, this is probably one of the most moving events I’ve ever experienced,” he told HuffPost. “To have someone in prison that long and to fight for years, for six years to get him some justice, it has just been an enormous undertaking.”
McKinney received $353,000 upfront, which went to cover lawyer fees and other legal costs. He then will receive $3,500 each month for the next 10 years. Should McKinney die within the decade, his wife or his estate will be able to collect the checks.
While the $1 million is noted, by no means is it being called satisfactory compared to the amount of time McKinney spent behind bars. “The board of claims at the hearing said that they thought it was an inadequate award,” Raybin said.
The $1 million compensation is the maximum amount to be awarded by Tennesse, but Raybin notes the law was put in place nearly 10 years ago and doesn’t account for inflation.
McKinney however is thankful to be a free man after trying for years to receive monetary compensation and his rightful exoneration. Twice the parole board refused to formally clear McKinney’s name. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) declined to clear his name as well. McKinney only received his just due in December 2017 when Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed off.
“In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent,” Haslam said in a statement at the time. “While I appreciate the hard work and recommendations of the Board of Parole, in this case, I defer to the finding of the court charged with determining Mr. McKinney’s guilt or innocence.”