“I’ve been a criminal defense attorney for 40 years, this is probably one of the most moving events I’ve ever experienced, to have someone in prison that long and to fight for years, for six years to get him some justice, it has just been an enormous undertaking,” said Nashville attorney David Raybin to HuffPost.
Raybin was speaking on behalf of his client, Lawrence McKinney, 61. McKinney was awarded one million dollars on Wednesday for a wrongful rape conviction imposed in 1978. He was cleared of a rape charge from DNA evidence after serving 32 years in prison. He was released in 2009.
McKinney has been fighting for compensation since and his request was finally granted.
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The monetary judgement was given by the Tennessee Board of Claims which set the cap at one million.
McKinney will receive $350,000 initially to cover fees and debts. Thereafter, he will be paid $3,500 for 10 years. In the event of his death, the allotment will be given to his wife or his estate.
The Tennessee Parole Board refused to exonerate McKinney twice; that decision was backed by former Governor Phil Bredesen (D). It wasn’t until 2017, under the administration of the current Gov. Bill Haslam (R) that McKinney was finally found not guilty. Haslam stated: “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.”
Despite the payment McKinney is getting, Raybin feels the amount needs to be revisited “many other states have much higher amounts,” he confirmed.
According to Project Innocence, an organization geared towards fighting for those wrongfully convicted and then exonerated via DNA evidence, there are currently 18 states that do not offer compensation to those wrongfully jailed for a crime they did not commit. Some of the states include Alaska, Delaware, and Pennsylvania to name a few.
Subsequently, the Tennessee Parole Board is considering readjusting the one-million-dollar judgement; Raybin stated this was verbally confirmed by some board members.
Despite his harrowing circumstance, McKinney remains undaunted. “He was obviously very moved by all of this, he has infinite patience, and he is also a very religious person and has extreme faith in God,” Raybin said of McKinney.