Lebanon’s own Lawrence McKinney is a man anyone could take a lesson from when it comes to patience.
But don’t take our word for it; he’ll tell you himself.
“I spent 31 years, nine months, 18 days and 12 hours in prison,” McKinney said. “I left with $75.”
After all that time, McKinney was released from prison in July 2009 after the Innocence Project proved in court he didn’t commit the rape and first-degree burglary he was accused of in 1977 in Memphis.
He would spend the next five years awaiting exoneration until Monday when a Memphis district attorney presented the case to a judge there. In mere moments, the significant burden McKinney carried with him for more than 35 years was lifted, and his slate was wiped clean.
Aside from spending about a third of his life in prison alone, McKinney missed out on nine presidential elections, and he wasn’t able to go on any mission trips outside the U.S. because he was denied a passport as a former convicted felon. He was also denied jobs due to his record and couldn’t enjoy a number of priviledges many take for granted.
“I was real young when I went to prison,” he said. “I lost a lot of things, going to college, having a job. It took a lot away from me. I take it one day at a time.”
Monday marked the start of a new life for McKinney.
And even though the finish line is in sight, there is still yet another hurdle left for McKinney to cross. But this final leg remains in the hands of the state.
The issue of restitution owed to McKinney for being wrongfully imprisoned is still pending.
According to the Innocence Project, Tennessee state law allows “a maximum of $1 million for the entirety of a wrongful incarceration. The board of claims, in determining the amount of compensation, shall consider the person’s physical and mental suffering and loss of earnings.”
In McKinney’s case, he’s certainly due every penny of the maximum award, and we urge the state to make quick work of cutting him a check.
“I know God was in control. I’m a free man now,” McKinney said. “In my opinion, the state [didn’t] want to exonerate me because it would have to give me $1 million. It doesn’t matter to me. I know God will take care of me.”
Hopefully justice will finally be served soon. And considering McKinney’s track record and Christian heart, we have no doubt that money would be put to good use.