Timothy McKinney wins a new trial

Timothy McKinney
By: Lee Wengraf and Tim McKinney

Timothy McKinney is a prisoner on Tennessee’s death row, wrongfully convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Memphis on Christmas night in 1997.

An African-American man convicted of killing a white police officer, Tim’s trial was plagued by inadequate representation and prosecutorial misconduct. He was sentenced to death in 1999 after a two day trial, where the prosecution presented no physical evidence connecting him to the crime. Over 50 eyewitnesses testified in Tim’s defense at his appeal in 2006.

Last month, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in favor of Tim’s appeal and ordered a new trial. Tim’s supporters are gearing up with a campaign calling on Memphis district attorneys to drop the charges and grant Tim his freedom.

Visit TimMcKinney.org and on Facebook to get involved.

Here, we publish a note of thanks to his supporters from Tim:

Dear Friends and Allies,

I am extremely excited to share some good news of our struggle here in Tennessee.  On March 9, 2010, a unanimous panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals vacated my conviction and ordered a new trial.

Being granted a new trial is definitely a huge victory. It’s a major step forward and a taste of the chance of obtaining my freedom.  It’s truly a blessing in itself. But the state has the chance to file a petition for review—meaning, they can appeal the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The fight isn’t over yet. We are celebrating this victory, but only in part. We clearly understand that the district attorney’s office has the option to re-try the case. This is a critical phase, and now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to put an end to this horrific experience of injustice.  It’s vital that people’s voices are heard, and that we put pressure on the DA’s  office not to re-try this case but to drop the charges.

I gratefully thank the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and all the families, friends and supporters for faithfully fighting, witnessing and continuing to share our voices with the public. I also want to thank you for allowing me the opportunities to participate and express my thoughts, my views and my struggle during the “Live From Death Row” speaking tour  last year.

It introduced me to new people, new ideas and new communities of faith. It’s very important to continue to produce powerful events like the tour to  uncover the myriad of problems within this unjust system. It has been a true blessing to come to know and learn about so many incredible men and women faithfully witnessing against this cruel injustice.

All of you all’s efforts, energy and passion plays a critical role in helping empower each one of us to continue hammering away at that wall until finally, it can no longer stand. The wall will crumble, it’s already beginning to crack. With all you all’s relentless strength and courage, it’s a must that we hold those sitting in judgment accountable.

Pressure will help bring freedom and justice toward a better world and a just society.  Again, I thank you! And please continue to keep up the good fight.

Sincerely, with great respect,

Tim McKinney #234673
Riverbend Maximum Security Inst.
Unit 2-A-101
7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209-1048



The ruling from the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Jackson reads in part:

“Counsel’s constitutionally deficiencies throughout the representation of the Petitioner establish cumulative prejudice of such magnitude that we conclude that the Petitioner’s right to a fair proceeding was prejudiced.  There is a reasonable probability that, absent their deficiencies, the outcome of both the guilt phase and the sentencing phase of the trial would have been different. The nature and extent of counsel’s deficiencies rendered the entire proceeding fundamentally unfair. Accordingly, upon review of the entire record, we conclude that the evidence preponderates against the findings of the post-conviction court.”

From Tim’s pen pal:
Suddenly, the world was a better place

Tim’s pen pal and friend Katharine Smith wrote the following on hearing
the news of Tim’s new trial:

On March 10, I received an e-mail titled, TIM MCKINNEY’S CASE WAS REVERSED AND HE’S GETTING A NEW TRIAL!!!’ What??!!!! I’d been waiting to read this sentence for 8 years.

I was connected to Tim through the CEDP’s pen-pal program. Over these years, we have developed a strong friendship and worked together to press for receipt of good counsel and a retrial.

You can imagine my initial reaction—disbelief, shock, relief, affirmation. I immediately contacted invested parties to share this glorious news, leaving messages for my mother, father, and other family members and friends who have witnessed our friendship and struggle. My mother immediately called me back—she said she wept at hearing the decision and feebly attempted to regroup before returning to work.

For me, the world was suddenly a better place; the constant and unconscious weight of not knowing Tim’s destiny was lifted from my shoulders.  I tried to imagine—can you imagine—how Tim feels.