By Joe Jarvis
After spending over three decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, Lawrence McKinney was cleared of the charges in 2008 after DNA evidence was tested.
It took another year for the government to release him from custody. They sent Lawrence out into a world he didn’t know. But they didn’t let him leave empty-handed. The government gave Lawrence McKinney $75.
Seventy-five-dollars to start a new life after being wrongfully caged by government prosecutors all those years ago.
What can you do when it takes thousands of dollars to even hire a lawyer for the slim chance of seeking a “redress of grievances” against, in this case, the state of Tennessee?
Luckily Lawrence had the support of a prison pen pal who became his wife. She, his church, and charities focusing on innocent people wrongly incarcerated helped him take the government to court.
At first, it was an uphill battle. Although Lawrence McKinney was cleared of the charges, he had to prove his innocence in order to be fully exonerated, and become eligible for a payout based on the state’s mistake.
It took an act of the Governor, but finally, a decade after being cleared, McKinney received the maximum amount allowed by the state of Tennessee, $1 million.
CNN Says he “Finally Gets Justice”
This is justice? A million dollars might sound like a lot. But it’s actually just over $32,000 per year he spent in prison. It’s $25,000 per year for the time that elapsed between his conviction and his final “justice”–the $1 million award.
If Lawrence was paid $32,000 per year incarcerated, and that money was put into an account with just 1% interest, compounded yearly, it would have accrued almost $200,000 of interest. But in 1977, the year he was imprisoned, the interest rate for 10 year CD accounts was about 6%. There were similar rates in 1987, and 1997. At that rate, Lawrence could have earned a total of $1.9 million in interest over the course of his incarceration, for a total of $2.9 million.
Lawrence Mckinney is now 61 years old. The first lump sum paid out $353,000 and will go almost entirely towards legal fees.
Then he will receive $3,300 per month until the $647,000 is gone. Mckinney will be 77.
Adjust for inflation, and by the time McKinney receives the final payment, the $3,300 per month will be worth merely $2,400 in real purchasing power.
How sad that the government feels a life they ruined is worth so little.
What is a human life worth?
The federal government actually has answers on this. Turns out the EPA values a human life the most, at a whopping $10 million a head. I never knew the EPA cared so much. Or at least they care about their costly regulations being “worth the cost,” for how many human lives they might save…
The Department of Transportation and the Food and Drug Administrations also value a human life at over $9 million. Again, they are required to calculate the cost versus benefit of their regulations. They do this by putting a value on a human life.
But how interesting when it comes time for the government to pay out for the value of a human life they took, the figure suddenly drops like a rock. Even if you consider 31 years in prison to only have stolen 1/3 of McKinney’s life, that should still figure to at least $3 million.
The board that chose to repay McKinney actually said they regretted that Tennessee law did not allow them to give him more.
And yet somehow Lawrence McKinney has remained positive. He said all he wanted was to clear his name. The money, he says, is just a nice extra so that he doesn’t have to work so hard at his age–after slaving away for 31 years in a Tennessee prison.