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Exonerated Tennessee man seeks $1M after 31 years in prison

Lawrence McKinney (AP Photo/ Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee man who spent more than 31 years in prison before new DNA evidence led to his rape and burglary conviction being overturned is asking the state for $1 million in damages.

The Tennessean reports lawyers for 61-year-old Lawrence McKinney of Wilson County filed the request with the state Board of Claims on Thursday.

In 1977, McKinney’s neighbor told police she was raped by two men who broke into her home. She identified one of the men as McKinney and he was sentenced to 115 years in jail the following year.

DNA evidence cleared him of any wrongdoing and the conviction was overturned in 2009, but he couldn’t ask for compensation until he was exonerated by the state.

Two previous attempts at receiving exoneration — one right after he got out of jail and another in 2016 — proved futile.

Finally, on December 20, 2017, Governor Bill Haslam granted his request.

In a statement to The Tennessean, the governor said in part that he trusts “the determinations of the Shelby County Criminal Court and District Attorney that Mr. McKinney was not guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted…”

“In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent,” he continued.

“I defer tot he finding of the court charged with determining Mr. McKinney’s guilt or innocence.”

It’s typical for exonerated people to apply for and receive money if they served time on an overturned conviction.

The most the state will pay out is $1 million.