A Black American man in Tennessee who served 31 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit has been released with just $75 to restart his life.

Lawrence McKinney was convicted on rape and burglary charges in 1978 and sentenced to 115 years in jail. He was alleged to have broken into his neighbor’s home and raped her.

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She identified him as one of the two intruders but he was later cleared in 2008 thanks to DNA evidence.

After his release, McKinney was issued just over KSh 7500. He is, however, now petitioning the state to compensate him $1 million for the years of his life that were taken away.

The 61-year-old man, who has been twice denied compensation by the Tennessee Parole Board, is now going another route by asking Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to exonerate him.

A formal exoneration would directly open a pathway to the $1 million compensation from the state Board of Claims.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Parole, Melissa McDonald said:

”The board reviewed all relevant information related to the crime, conviction, and subsequent appeals, as well as all information provided by the petitioner.”

“After considering all of the evidence, the board did not find clear and convincing evidence of innocence and declined to recommend clemency in this matter.”

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The Board of Parole, which makes recommendations to the governor, denied the exoneration request by a 7-0 vote at a September hearing.


McKinney’s attorney, Jack Lowery, is still keeping hopes alive saying he believes the decision rests solely with Governor Haslam.

“The parole board is not qualified to make these decisions and should not,” he said.

“For the parole board to step in when many (of them) are not trained in the law is ridiculous.”

Mckinney is keeping his hopes up as well even though the odds are slightly against him. Tennessee’s governors have granted just two exonerations in the past 16 years.

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The two exonerations came on the same day in January 2011, about a week before the then governor, Bredesen vacated office.

”Although I’ve spent more than half of my life locked up for a crime I did not do, I am not bitter or angry at anyone, because I have found the Lord and married a good wife,” McKinney said.

“All I ask is that I be treated right and fair for what has happened to me. I didn’t do nothing, and I just want to be treated right.”