After spending more than 3 decades behind bars Lawrence McKinney’s attempt to get exonerated has been mired by red tape. McKinney was convicted of raping a woman and stealing a television set in 1978.

“I don’t have no life, all my life was taken away,” McKinney said.

Tennessee Man, Lawrence McKinney

Lawrence McKinney, now 60 spend more than three decades in prison after a Tennessee court wrongly convicted him of raping a woman and stealing a television set in 1978.


McKinney was released in 2009 and given $75, after spending more than 31 years and nine months in prison.

McKinney had depended on part-time jobs at his church just to pay the bills. Under Tennessee law, he could be eligible for up to $1 million in compensation, but at the time he only got $75, and the parole board has rejected his request twice.

Seven Tennesse parole board members voted unanimously to deny hearing his exoneration case, as well as once when McKinney was first released. One of the members, Patsy Bruce said that she voted against hearing McKinney’s exoneration because she was not sure about his innocence.


In 2008, DNA testing of evidence scientifically excluded McKinney as a suspect. Prosecutors said, “If this evidence had been available… there would have been no prosecution.”

“In an exoneration hearing we have to have a lot of evidence, clear and convincing, I have not been convinced that he is innocent,” said Patsy Bruce.

“Because they didn’t notice that they didn’t test everything ordered by the original judge to be tested,” said Patsy when asked why the judgments of the judge and the district attorney weren’t convincing enough.

While the prosecutor says that the two samples that were tested either had no DNA or were so degraded that the test could not be performed.


“It is not justice for him not to receive compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned,” says Jack Lowery, McKinney’s lawyer.

Jack has appealed the case to Gov. Bill Haslam, who has the final say. Lowery said “There has been one mistake made that sent him to prison. I trust that another is not made that does not allow him exoneration.”

When he was convicted, McKinney recalled, “I still could not believe it because I thought it was a dream of something”


“Being exonerated would put me on a standard with everyone else in society. I don’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,” Lawrence McKinney told The Tennessean. Lawrence is now becoming a preacher at the Immanuel Baptist Church.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision could come at any moment, and after waiting for 31 years for his freedom, Lawrence McKinney says he was wait a little longer.

Read about the case of Samuel Brownridge, who was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and was released after 25 years.

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