After 16 years behind bars and 3 capital trials, McKinney is finally free
In 1999, Timothy McKinney was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1997 killing of Donald Williams, an off-duty Memphis police officer, who was working as a security guard at Crumpy’s Comedy Club in Memphis on Christmas night. Earlier that evening, McKinney had an altercation with Williams and police quickly identified him as the suspect after Williams was shot later that night in the back of the neck. McKinney has always maintained his innocence.
In 2010, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted McKinney a new trial after reviewing the troubling facts of his case. They ruled that McKinney’s representation at trial created “cumulative prejudice of such magnitude” that his right to a fair proceeding was prejudiced. The court stated, “there is 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.”
McKinney’s new trial began Monday, April 9, 2012 in Shelby County. On April 16, Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous decision. Their final vote was 11-1 for guilty of first degree murder.
McKinney remained in jail without bond. His third trial was set to begin in September 2012 but was delayed until April 10, 2013. On April 16, his third capital trial resulted in another hung jury with a vote of 8-4 for acquittal. On May 22, 2013, Timothy McKinney was released from the Shelby County Jail after he agreed to a deal to plead guilty of second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of time served.
For more background on this troubling case, check out this great article that recently appeared in The Nation.