The Associated Press reports that Dean McKee won his appeal in a Tampa court this week, reversing his murder conviction from 1987. At 46 years old, he walked out of jail a free man at 8:50 p.m. on Friday.
McKee was convicted in the death of a homeless man in 1987, but recent DNA evidence and witness testimony cast doubt on his guilt. Such evidence indicated McKee’s brother may have had a greater role in the crime than originally thought. His brother served less than a year after entering a plea deal.
McKee’s conviction was overturned in October, and Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell had the opinion that “he would likely be acquitted” at a second trial. On Tuesday, however, a different circuit court judge ordered McKee to be released on his own recognizance, but he is required to wear a GPS monitoring device.
Prosecutors are appealing Campbell’s October ruling, but don’t feel he needs to stay in prison to await the pending decision.
McKee and his older brother, Scott, were members of a neo-Nazi gang when they were accused of assaulting and stabbing Isaiah Walker, 41, who was a homeless black man. He was discovered dead on Dec. 20, 1987 outside the Tampa Museum of Art.
Both boys were jailed in 1988; Scott was 18, Dean was 16. In exchange for Scott’s testimony that Dean stabbed the man, he was given a deal and served less than a year. Investigators treated a letter Dean wrote as a confession, but two witnesses at trial say they were forced to testify, and one recanted his statements. Dean was still found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in jail.
In 2007, Dean began the process to request DNA testing in the case. A hearing was scheduled in 2014, where Scott invoked his Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent. Scott’s former girlfriend stated in court that he told her Dean had to pull him off of the victim, and that he and his father planned to let Dean take the fall for the crime, thinking he wouldn’t get in as much trouble since he was a juvenile.
*Photo credit Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times