Tennessee resident Lawrence McKinney was released from prison after serving 31 years for a crime he did not commit. Sentenced to 115 years after being convicted for burglary and rape, McKinney was freed after DNA evidence proved he was not at the scene of the crime.
The incident in question occurred in Memphis in 1977. A woman who was raped in her home identified McKinney as one of her attackers. He was cleared of the charges in 2008 and left prison one year later. The Department of Corrections awarded him a $75 check as compensation for his unlawful imprisonment. McKinney said he was unable to cash the check for 90 days because he did not have current identification. He is now seeking $1 million from the state but must obtain an official exoneration in order to proceed.
The road to exoneration has been filled with obstacles. When McKinney went before the parole board in 2010, his exoneration was denied because of nearly 100 infractions he committed while in prison. McKinney told the board that prison is a difficult place, and only the strongest people survive. After he had served 28 years, McKinney did admit to the burglary charges because his legal team assured him it was the easiest path to an early release.
McKinney, now 61, has put a great deal of effort into reclaiming his life and making the most of the time he has left. Six years ago, he married a woman with whom he had corresponded while in prison. The couple regularly attends church and Bible study and has the support of the local community.
McKinney said that although he spent nearly half of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit, he does not feel any anger or bitterness. He is happy to have found God and a loving wife and only asks to be treated well.