Timothy McKinney Freed

Last month, we wrote about Timothy McKinney’s third capital trial that resulted in another hung jury and have been waiting to hear whether the Shelby County District Attorney’s office would seek a fourth trial. Today we received news that McKinney will be released, after agreeing to a plea deal for the 1997 murder of Donald Williams, an off-duty Memphis police officer, in exchange for his freedom.

In 2010, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted McKinney a new trial after determining problems with his defense counsel that “rendered the entire proceeding fundamentally unfair.” At his second capital trial in April 2012, the jury voted 11-1 for guilty of first degree murder and his third capital trial last month resulted in another mistrial after the jury was deadlocked 8-4 for acquittal.

As this article that recently appeared in The Nation explains, McKinney’s case lacked any key physical evidence. “No gun was ever found. No blood was discovered on McKinney’s clothes. His car was sold at police auction two months after the crime, before it could undergo forensic testing. The case against McKinney hinges on eyewitness testimony—evidence whose extreme fallibility has become well-known since he was first convicted.”

We are thankful that after 16 years of being locked up, Timothy McKinney can finally go home to his friends and family. The state persisted in pursuing death for McKinney, wasting millions of dollars, and in the end, they got two retrials and a plea resulting in release on time served. We can and must do better.

(Photo of Timothy McKinney speaking with one of his attorneys courtesy of WREG Memphis)

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