Haslam goes against parole board, exonerates man in 1978 rape conviction

Press release from Gov. Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on the exoneration of Lawrence McKinney:

“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, 61, was convicted of rape and burglary in Shelby County. had his record expunged after his release from prison where he spent 31 years.

Further, from The Tennessean:

Although he was out of prison and had his record expunged, McKinney still sought an executive exoneration from the governor to enable him to file for compensation with the Tennessee Board of Claims.

McKinney had the support from state Rep. Mark Pody, Pastor John Hunn of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon and attorneys Jack Lowery and David Raybin in his efforts.

…The Tennessee Board of Parole voted unanimously against recommending exoneration for McKinney in 2016. At the time, at least one parole board member questioned the completeness of the DNA evidence that cleared McKinney. 

The governor is not bound to follow that recommendation and can either grant, deny or choose not to act on an executive clemency request.

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