Tag Archives: DNA

Parole board rejects exoneration of McKinney

The state Board of Parole has voted against recommending exoneration of a Wilson County man who served 31 years in prison on a rape and burglary conviction before DNA evidence cleared him of the crime, reports The Tennessean.

The board, which voted 7-0 not to recommend the formal exoneration to the governor, still questioned his innocence.

Lawrence McKinney, 60, was released in 2009 after his 1978 conviction in Memphis was overturned. His record was expunged after his release, but attempts to get an executive exoneration have been mired in red tape, according to his supporters.

McKinney remained upbeat as his legal team plans to request an exoneration directly from Gov. Bill Haslam. The governor ultimately decides exoneration cases and is not bound by the board’s recommendation.

“I got two good lawyers that God put by my side, then I got a pastor and I got a church who going to stand behind me, and I’m going to do the best that I do to show who Jesus Christ is and I got a beautiful wife …” McKinney said.

Having criminal records expunged is a judicial process, but exoneration is an additional declaration of innocence awarded by the governor. If granted, the exoneration enables a person to file for compensation with the Tennessee Board of Claims.

“We’re going to go to the governor, we’re going to ask the governor to exonerate this man; he is not bound by this decision and I think public support for Mr. McKinney is overwhelming,” said David Raybin, one of McKinney’s attorneys.

McKinney’s hearing lasted nearly four hours and had the feel of a trial. He testified on his own behalf and said he was offered a deal of five years when he was arrested for the rape to testify against a co-defendant. But he turned it down “because I didn’t know anything about the crime.”

McKinney was sentenced to 100 years for the rape and 10 to 15 years for the burglary. Continue reading

Cohen Is Not a Daddy, After All

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee says he’s “stunned and dismayed” to learn that DNA tests revealed he is not the father of a woman he thought was his daughter.
Cohen issued a statement Thursday after CNN reported that DNA tests showed Victoria Brink isn’t his daughter.
In February, after Twitter messages he sent to the 24-year-old Texas woman during the president’s State of the Union address received media attention, Cohen revealed that he was Brink’s father. He said he learned about the relationship three years ago and was overjoyed.
In Thursday’s statement, he said he still loves Brink and hopes to remain in her life.
Cohen says he was “stunned and dismayed when DNA tests disproved what Victoria and I believed about our relationship.”

Change in State’s Rape Law Proposed

A proposed change in state law on prosecution of rape cases has been made part of the package of legislation proposed to the Shelby County legislative delegation, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Rape carries a statute of limitations of 10 years and aggravated rape has a 15-year statute of limitations. So, even if a rapist is caught and DNA evidence links him to the crime, if the (time set out in the) statute has passed, the rapist can’t be charged.
“I thought, this is so messed up. I don’t know what I can do, but I plan to something about this,” Ybos said.
She did.
This fall Ybos became a member of the Victims of Crime Advisory League (VOCAL), a group created in 2009 to help shape public policy to victims of crime. And she wrote a law.
That law extends the statute of limitations by one year from the date that the DNA evidence identifying the defendant is established.
A similar law was proposed in 2006 for all felonies but died because it was too expensive to implement, Ybos said.
Her law, however, would only apply to rape, aggravated rape and the rape of a child.
With VOCAL’s help, that law has been included in the joint legislative package Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton presented to the county’s state legislative delegation for consideration.
“Rape is a devastating crime,” said Ybos, a law school graduate who is studying for the bar exam. “If we have the evidence to solve it, we owe it to the victims to do everything we can to solve that crime.”

DNA Study Finds TN Melungeons of Mixed Race Ancestry

By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.
Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.
And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn’t sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.
“There were a whole lot of people upset by this study,” lead researcher Roberta Estes said. “They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American.”

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Supremes Approve DNA Testing for Man Convicted of Rape in 1980

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a Memphis man serving a life sentence for two rapes he says he didn’t commit is entitled to DNA testing.
Rudolph Powers, now 51, was 20 when he was arrested in 1980 for the rapes that allegedly occurred near a shopping center where he worked. Powers said he was misidentified by the victims. He was later convicted and sentenced to life and 50 years, to run consecutively.
After exhausting all appeals, Powers sought the help of the Innocence Project, a New York legal center specializing in wrongful convictions, and petitioned for DNA testing under the state law.
According to the Innocence Project, the physical evidence recovered from the victim in one of the cases has been lost or destroyed, but the evidence in the other case has been found.

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