- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) - A Tennessee man who was exonerated after spending 31 years in prison has spoken publicly for the first time since the state announced his $1 million restitution for wrongful imprisonment.

Lawrence McKinney, 61, was released from prison in 2009 when new DNA evidence cleared him of 1978 rape and burglary convictions in Memphis. McKinney spoke Monday in Lebanon about the state Board of Claims unanimous vote on March 21 awarding him the money, The Tennessean reported.

McKinney said the decades he spent in prison, and afterward the nine years he spent seeking exoneration, all had a purpose. Declaring his Christian faith, he said God used his ordeal “to show people what (God is) about.”

McKinney’s attempts at a formal exoneration were continually stalled until Gov. Bill Haslam granted him an executive exoneration in December. The exoneration is required in order to file for compensation in a wrongful imprisonment claim, and McKinney’s $1 million award is the maximum state law allows as restitution for such claims.

The governor in Tennessee has the sole authority to grant, deny or not act on a wrongful imprisonment application.

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen did not act on McKinney’s first attempt to be exonerated after a negative recommendation from the state Board of Parole, spokeswoman Melissa McDonald has said. In 2016, the parole board again voted against recommending McKinney’s exoneration despite his overturned convictions.

Even with everything McKinney has gone through, he has an amazing attitude and a strong faith, said Jack Lowery Sr., one his attorneys.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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