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31 Years Later, Innocent Man Released with $1 Million Bounty to Boot

The sages said it best; time is the greatest healer of souls. However, this narrative seems different for a recently-released innocent man. After spending 31 years in prison, he was released back to public life.

In the halls of justice, everything is fair. Thus, once it was established that he had been wrongly imprisoned, he received a hefty payday for his worries all through those years.

DNA evidence came to the Tennessee man’s rescue eventually, albeit 31 years too late. Lawrence McKinney, now 61, was put behind bars in 1978 for trumped-up charges. He was accused of rape and burglary before he was acquitted in 2009.

Even with his freedom back, the Tennessee Board of Claims saw it fit to put his financial situation in the black in March with a hefty $1 million bounty. His Nashville attorney, David Raybin, was lead counsel in the case that lasted 6 years to come to fruition. For McKinney, the experience was bittersweet according to his attorney. Even after exoneration, he sought to ensure that the state was put in-check for its crimes against the freedom of the man.

Raybin called the happening ‘the most moving event’ he had ever experienced all through his 40 years practicing law. This story perhaps lends credence to the miraculous nature of it all.

Mr. McKinney was officially released in 2009. After taking inventory of everything, they began a suit against the state for wrongful imprisonment. After 6 arduous years, he finally received $1 Million worth of compensation. It’s a script akin to the movies. No one can make that up!


In the simplest of terms, in the end, justice was served. The payment was dispensed as follows, $353,000 upfront to cover lawyer fees and other legal costs. The remaining amount is set to be paid out at a flat rate of $3,500 per month over the next 10 years. In the incident that he before the decade passes, his wife and/or estate will be able to collect the checks in his place.

DNA Evidence has been embraced in modern-day courts due it’s effectiveness. Jurors now expect DNA evidence to be provided even when other forms of evidence are present

While the payment is a win for McKinney, it is by no means equivalent to the time that he spent behind bars. 31 years is simply a very long time. However, it was the maximum amount that could be dispensed due to the current laws in Tennessee.

His attorney Raybin was quick to also point out the fact that the current figures were implemented nearly 10 years ago. Due to the change in demographics since then, the calculations can be said to be flawed since they don’t take into account the inflation since then.

In saying this, one would be forgiven for thinking that they are not grateful for what they’ve been able to accomplish. It’s been quite an experience for the duo and McKinney’s family all through those 6 years. For instance, the parole board twice refused to officially McKinney’s name for any wrongdoing.

In addition, the former Gov. Phil Bredesen had also turned down their pleas for clearance. Luckily enough, the current Gov. Bill Haslam objectively look at the matter and resolved the issue once and for all in December 2017. In doing so, he cleared the way for McKinney to seek his compensation from the state.

The Fight

McKinney after receiving exoneration

Right after learning his fate, McKinney let his lawyer Raybin express his gratitude to the governor for his kindness. According to Raybin, McKinney is a deeply religious person and has a vastly infinite amount patience. Perhaps, that has something to do with his prison experience. As such, he was always positive all through those years.

Raybin had deliberated with members of the Board of Parole about the Lilliputian compensation monies. In good faith, they assured him that they would make an attempt at revising the cap. The most likely time this can happen is upon commencement of the next year. This was in lieu of the fact that numerous other states have much higher compensation amounts compared to Tennessee.

The Innocent Project is a nonprofit organization that actively fights to exonerate inmates who have been wrongly convicted. They do this by making use of DNA evidence. According to them, 18 states do not have laws to grant compensation to incarcerated individuals who are later on found innocent.

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