How Lawrence McKinney a man who was cleared of a crime that saw him wrongfully convicted continues to be denied compensation by Tennessee.
Lawrence McKinney a 60 year old Memphis, Tennessee, man who spent more than 3 decades behind bars serving time for a crime he never committed has received the paltry compensation of $75.
The then 29 year old man was wrongly convicted of raping a woman and stealing her television set in 1978, spending 31 years jail time for a crime he would be vindicated for having never committed in the first place.
According to the independent, McKinney at the time was sentenced to 115 years, 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.
McKinney is now fighting to get his case heard in front of the state’s parole board, where if he is exonerated, the jailed man could potentially be eligible for up to $1 million in compensation.
Except there is one catch. Actually two.
The state parole board has declined to hear Lawrence McKinney’s exoneration case, not once but twice.
To date the wrongly imprisoned man has only been compensated to the tune of $75 which he was tended upon his release in July 2009.
Told Lawrence McKinney via CBS news: ‘I don’t have no life, all my life was taken away.’
His lawyer, Jack Lowery, said his client had suffered enough and justice would not be served via receiving compensation alone.
The lawyer says Lawrence McKinney’s attempt at being exonerated has been mired in ‘red tape’, despite his record has been cleared.
Define ‘red tape’ ?
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.
Haslam’s press secretary, Jennifer Donnals, told The Tennessean that Bill Haslam received an executive clemency application on 21 November.
The governor’s office is now carrying out a review of 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.
That said, not everyone is on board.
One member on the parole board, Patsy Bruce, said she was still not sure whether McKinney was innocent and voted against his exoneration.
Of note, the Tennessee Board of Claims has only paid out exoneration claims twice since 2003.
With some questioning whether the reluctance to grant McKinney clemency and therefore any chance at compensation is mired in political controversy, an aversion to helping anyone who has spent time in prison (regardless of guilt) and general reluctance to open up state coffers.
Notes one report: ‘There is no uniform provision that would allow those exonerated to secure housing, employment, health care, or counseling so they can re-enter society successfully. To the contrary, the governments that energetically and enthusiastically prosecuted and imprisoned them expend just as much energy to avoid paying for the damage they inflict upon these exonerees.’
Since his release, Lawrence McKinney has found work at the Immanuel Baptist Church where he now aspires to become a preacher.
Told McKinney via The Tennessean: ‘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.’
Asked what got him through his time at jail, the wrongly convicted man responds, ‘my faith.’
A Change.org petition calling for Lawrence McKinney’s exoneration has reached more than 10,897 signatures.
A decision on whether McKinney will now be afforded clemency is expected any day now.