In 1977, a 22-year-old Lawrence McKinney’s life took a tragic turn. In October, he was arrested when one woman identified McKinney as the perpetrator of a violent crime. He was charged with first degree burglary and rape. His sentence of 115 years in prison was imposed in 1978.

Over thirty years later in 2008, investigators tested the original victim’s bedding. DNA analysis revealed that Mr. McKinney was innocent. He was released in 2009, but he was in prison for over 31 years for a crime he never committed. Upon his release, Mr. McKinney was given a mere $75. He was unable to cash his compensation for over three months without a valid ID card.

In 2016, Mr. McKinney was denied a full exoneration of his crimes, but the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, went against the parole board’s verdict. After fighting for exoneration for most of his life, Mr. McKinney was finally unilaterally exonerated in 2017. This exoneration allowed him to pursue his rightful compensation for wrongful imprisonment. His unacceptable treatment by the justice system led him to pursue the maximum compensation amount of $1 million.

His devastating story has captured the attention of civil rights advocates across the nation, and most were enthusiastic to hear Mr. McKinney was granted the $1 million compensation from the Tennessee Board of Claims in March of 2018. His historic award is the highest compensation amount the state of Tennessee has ever granted. He will receive about $353,000 up front to pay off his debts and legal fees. After that, Mr. McKinney will receive monthly payments of $3,350 over the next ten years.