For 31 years, Lawrence McKinney sat in a Tennessee prison cell, wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.

DNA evidence led to his freedom in 2009 through a judicial clearance, but he has not been exonerated. After parole boards twice declined to exonerate him, McKinney hopes Gov. Bill Haslam overturns those decisions and issues an executive exoneration, CBS News reports.

Exoneration from the state represents more than a moral victory.

According to the network’s report, Tennessee gave 60-year-old McKinney $75 when he left prison seven years ago, and he has struggled since then to make ends meet. An exoneration makes McKinney eligible for up to $1 million of compensation.

In 1978, a Memphis jury convicted McKinney of rape and burglary, based on the victim’s testimony. He received a 115-year sentence.

Thirty years later, a series of DNA tests excluded him as a suspect. Based on the scientific evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that “there would have been no prosecution” if that evidence was available at the original trial.

The judge and prosecutor set McKinney free, yet two parole boards were not convinced of his innocence.

Patsy Bruce, who sat on the first board, told CBS that the investigation is incomplete because the judge and prosecutor failed to consider two out of several DNA samples. However, the prosecutor explained to CBS that the two samples Bruce referred to either had no DNA or contained DNA that was too degraded for testing.

“There has been one mistake made that sent him to prison,” McKinney’s attorney Jack Lowery told CBS. “I trust that another is not made that does not allow him exoneration.”

In the meantime, McKinney patiently awaits the governor’s decision.

SOURCE: CBS News

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