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Wrongfully Convicted Man Pays For Compensation

Posted at 3:41 PM, Nov 21, 2015

A man who spent more than 30 years behind bars was proved to be innocent, but has chosen not to be angry.

Sitting in the sanctuary of his church in Lebanon Friday, Lawrence McKinney reflected on how he spent more than a third of his life, locked up in prisons across the state.

"Thirty one years, 9 months, 18 days and 12 hours," McKinney recalled. 

On Oct. 2, 1977 McKinney was arrested for rape and first degree burglary in Memphis. He was convicted on those charges and sent to prison.

"My 20's 30's and 40's got taken away from me," said McKinney. 

As time passed, McKinney feared he was lost in the system. "There was just something inside me that constantly told me to live one day at a time," he said. 

Years went by before he met his wife to be and Wilson County native, Dorothy, through another inmate. They wrote each other letters daily. "I just fell in love with him," said Dorothy. 

At church every Sunday, she said a prayer for him. "I was waiting, ready for him to come, and I would help him in every way that I could," she said. 

In 2008, DNA testing proved McKinney's innocence. By then he had found peace through his faith and instead of being angry or mad, McKinney was thankful.

"It's a blessing, I'm out here. I've got a wife, I've got a pastor, I've got a church and everything," McKinney said. 

While he does not want to look back, his supporters have been fighting for what's right. "I believe the state of Tennessee owes this man an explanation," Emmanuel Baptist Church Pastor John Hunn said. "I'm a Christian and I'm real mad, I'm a Christian and I'm very upset, frustrated, irritated."

To add insult to injury, the federal government gave McKinney a social security check, but then said it mistakenly overpaid him by $13,000. His wages were garnished to pay that money back, so far, $9,000 and counting. 

"We're not going to give up, I can tell you that," Hunn said. 

On Sunday, Emmanuel Baptist Church will celebrate McKinney and his story of hope and forgiveness. While he may never get back the time stolen from him he's at peace with where's he's at now.

"You put your trust in Christ and everything, you don't look back," McKinney said. 

McKinney was given $75 by the State when he was released. It was years before his record was expunged but the parole board has yet to exonerate his case which means he couldn't be compensated by the State.