It took a few more anxious hours than his family expected but Wednesday afternoon former death row inmate Timothy McKinney emerged from the jail at the Criminal Justice Center as a free man.
It came just a day after he agreed to a second-degree murder plea in exchange for more than 15 years of time served.
McKinney left the jail Wednesday to cheers and family and friends.
In the last two years Memphis defense attorney and death penalty specialist Gerald Skahan has come up batting 1,000. For the second time he's helped to get another former Tennessee death row inmate freed and McKinney is the latest beneficiary of Skahan's dedication to his work.
Death row inmate Timothy McKinney a free man
It was hard to tell whether it was the cheers of family and supporters awaiting his release or just the chance to breathe in the air and feel the warmth of a humid spring day that drew a broad smile to McKinney's face as he emerged from the Shelby County jail.
After 15 years, six months and 25 and a half days of incarceration, most of which was spent on Tennessee's death row, McKinney was left with only one obstacle to living out the rest of his days as a free man. He had to wait on the final paperwork from the Bureau of Prisons.
"Trying to maintain my patience, that's all," he told FOX13 News. "Trying to maintain patience. I know what we did in court will allow me to get my freedom. Try to wait on that."
Less than 24 hours earlier, a rare plea bargain required McKinney to accept a second degree murder conviction for the December 1997 shooting death of off-duty Memphis Police Officer Donald Williams outside a Memphis nightclub. In exchange McKinney was released based on time served.
It put an end to a judicial saga that spanned an overturned conviction and two hung juries that followed. Prosecutors and McKinney's defense team agreed a fourth trial could have proven fruitless. Yet, despite his family's euphoria over having him return home, McKinney still appeared to harbor bitterness toward a judicial system he feels is in need of repair.
"It's broken beyond measure," McKinney said. "It needs to be some real adjustments. We have good attorneys and good people supporting and thinking about it and looking into it. So, we need more people like that."
A bittersweetness also seemed to creep into his response when asked about what he had to say to the family of the popular MPD officer.
"My sympathy goes out to their family, but, I want them to know from the beginning that I still mantain my innocence," McKinney said.
Repeatedly asked about his plans for the future McKinney was understandably vague. He acknowledged a lot has changed in society since he last walked the streets. So, his immediate his goal is limited to a simple hope.
"Just looking for a promising life," he said. "That'll be it. At last! Appreciate it. God is good."