After a judge in Miami vacated the life sentence of a man who prosecutors said was wrongfully convicted, the family of the man who was murdered back in 1990 said they have mixed feelings about the release.
Samuel and Charles McKinnon were at the courthouse Wednesday as the judge ruled to exonerate and release Thomas Raynard James, who they thought had murdered their father, Francis McKinnon, more than three decades ago.
“My concern is not about retrying this case, it’s about justice for my father's case,” said Samuel McKinnon, one of Francis' sons. “Now you’re telling me we lost 30 years of potential investigation with solving this.”
James was convicted largely on the identification by an eyewitness who told jurors she watched him gun down her stepfather during a robbery in his Coconut Grove apartment.
“He was my hero. My role model. I can remember the night of the call. I traveled all the way to Baptist to find out my father’s been murdered. That affects anyone,” said Samuel McKinnon.
Francis McKinnon was a decorated war veteran. His murder greatly impacted the whole family, whose focus continues to be to find justice for their father.
“We don't want to see anyone punished for something they didn't do, but it just seems like it’s taken so long for them to all of a sudden decide that this guy deserves to be released,” Charles McKinnon said.
Over the past year, members of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office's Justice Project poured over 20,000 pages of documents, reinterviewed witnesses, resubmitted fingerprints and retested DNA samples.
She said the case has gone through numerous appeals, post-conviction reviews, and reviews by a private investigator and the Innocence Project of Florida Inc.
“None were successful in finding Mr. Thomas Raynard James innocent until we got involved," Fernandez Rundle said.
James, who was 23 when he was convicted, was expected to be released after paperwork was completed Wednesday.
“It may be convincing enough evidence for the State Attorney to make this recommendation, but to us, it’s not complete," Charles McKinnon said. "The thing is, I just don't feel like I know enough to support what the state is doing.”