Lebanon man exonerated by Governor for 1970s conviction

Lawrence McKinney (WSMV File Photo)

Gov. Bill Haslam exonerated a man who was falsely imprisoned for 31 years on a charge of rape and burglary, according to a statement from the Governor’s office.

Haslam granted the exoneration to Lawrence McKinney, who was convicted in 1978 in Shelby County. McKinney’s convictions were set aside by courts in 2009.“Today I granted Lawrence McKinney’s request for gubernatorial exoneration from his 1978 convictions. Though the facts of this case are complex and reasonable minds may draw different conclusions from them, ultimately I respect the determinations of the Shelby County Criminal Court and District Attorney General that Mr. McKinney was not guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted and would not have been prosecuted if the DNA testing results had been available at the time of trial. Mr. McKinney was released after more than 30 years in prison when the court set aside his convictions in 2009.

In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent. 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.”McKinney served 31 years in prison before a Shelby County court overturned the convictions in 2009 and set him free. DNA evidence showed he was never on the scene and had nothing to do with the crime.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Falsely convicted man seeks to clear his name | Innocent man has record wiped clean after 31 years in prison | Wrongfully imprisoned man denied compensation | Lawmaker speaks out about lack of justice for wrongly accused man | Man seeks clemency after wrongfully spending 31 years in jail | Parole board will not recommend exoneration for Wilson Co. man | Lawrence McKinney, attorney vow to continue exoneration fight“In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent. 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.”

McKinney has been seeking $1 million compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment, but it has been denied despite the charges being overturned.

Last year Haslam said he wouldn’t grant clemency to McKinney, which would allow him to receive compensation, until a recommendation from the Tennessee Parole Board. The board voted unanimously in September 2017 not to recommend exoneration.

“The criminal court of Shelby County found it to be clear and convincing. The DA in Shelby County found it to be clear and convincing. I don’t understand how the parole board could go behind that finding,” said attorney David Raybin, who is one of the attorneys who have been representing McKinney.

McKinney and his attorneys held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the exoneration.

“I was in prison 31 years, nine months, 18 days and 12 hours,” McKinney said. “I ain’t never doubted because God’s in control. I serve the Lord, and he knows the things I need and he made sure the right person walked in my life and by my side.”

Then State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, has been fighting for McKinney to be cleared.

“They told me it could take several more years before this man could have justice,” Pody said in a June 2016 interview. “When I heard that, I got so angry. That’s not right in Tennessee.”

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