He Served 31 Years Before Being Cleared, Then Got $75

Lawrence McKinney is asking the state of Tennessee for $1M
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2016 7:01 AM CST
He Served 31 Years Before Being Cleared, Then Got $75
Lawrence McKinney cleans the Immanuel Baptist Church's teen center in May 2016 in Lebanon, Tenn.   (Ricky Rogers/The Tennessean via AP)

Lawrence McKinney spent 31 years and nine months in prison before DNA evidence cleared him and set him free in 2009. Now, McKinney is seeking the $1 million he is entitled to under Tennessee law for all of those lost years. "I don’t have no life, all my life was taken away," McKinney, 61, tells CBS News. McKinney was convicted of rape and burglary in 1978. His neighbor claimed McKinney, then 22, was one of two men who attacked her in her bedroom. When a Memphis jury pronounced him guilty, "I still could not believe it because I thought it was a dream or something." He was sentenced to 115 years in prison. McKinney tells CNN that when he walked out of prison a free man, he was handed a check for $75, a check he couldn't cash for three months until he got an ID. Since then, he has relied on odd jobs at his church to make ends meet.

The problem is that the Tennessee parole board has twice rejected his bid for formal exoneration, which would open the door to compensation. A former board member tells CBS she is not convinced McKinney is innocent, even though prosecutors in 2008 said that if DNA testing had been available at the time of the crime, "there would have been no prosecution." McKinney's lawyer is appealing the matter to Gov. Bill Haslam. For his part, McKinney says he is not angry about those lost decades. He married a prison pen pal and attends Bible study most nights. "All I ask is that I be treated right and fair for what has happened to me," he tells CNN. "I didn't do nothing, and I just want to be treated right." (Cleared of rape, this man spent half his life in prison.)

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