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Timothy McKINNEY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Altercation
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 25, 1997
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1974
Victim profile: Don Williams (police officer)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 15, 1999
 
 
 
 
 

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee

 
state of tennesse v. timothy mckinney
 
 
 
 
 
 
the case for timothy mckinney
 
 
 
 
 
 

Convicted Memphis cop killer sentenced to death penalty

By Bryan Robinson - CourtTV.com

July 16, 1999

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Court TV) Despite Timothy McKinney's request for life with parole so that he could prove his innocence, a Tennessee jury imposed the death penalty on the 25-year-old parolee.

Jurors deliberated for approximately fours hours between late Thursday and early Friday before announcing their verdict. McKinney was convicted Wednesday night of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Officer Don Williams after an altercation outside a Memphis, Tenn. comedy club in December 1997.

The jury's sentence indicated that they did not believe that potential mitigating factors should spare McKinney's life. Jurors were told that McKinney never knew his biological father, that he is learning challenged he only went as far as the ninth grade in school and received his GED while incarcerated for robbery and that he never received treatment for his learning problems.

During the penalty phase of McKinney's trial Thursday, defense attorneys had unsuccessfully attempted to humanize their client and show that potential mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors such as his previous criminal record for aggravated robbery in 1993. Through the testimony of friends and relatives, defense attorneys tried to show that McKinney could still be a benefit to society if spared the death penalty and sentenced to either life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years.

Prosecutors had to prove only one aggravating factor to get the death penalty that McKinney had prior violent history. In addition to focusing on McKinney's guilty plea to aggravated robbery in 1993, they told jurors about the defendant's prior juvenile record of aggravated assault for firing at police officers during a separate incident in 1991.

McKinney, prosecutors stressed, had had a second chance through parole in 1997 and he blew it. According to prosecutors, parole had done nothing to rehabilitate McKinney.

Although he chose not to testify during the guilt phase of his trial, McKinney testified during his sentencing hearing that he was not Williams' shooter and asked jurors to spare his life so that he can prove his innocence.

McKinney also denied responsibility for his previous crimes of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. But during cross-examination Thursday, prosecutor David Henry, incredulous at McKinney's claims, repeatedly pointed out to the defendant that he pleaded guilty to crimes that he now claimed he did not commit.

Henry also focused on undermining McKinney's alibi for Williams' shooting: that he was sleeping at his girlfriend Debra Kimble's house at the time of the shooting. Williams was shot at approximately 2:35 a.m. Kimble lived a short distance away from Crumpy's Comedy Club and prosecutors believe McKinney had enough time to leave the club, go to Kimble's home, retrieve the murder weapon (which was never recovered) and return to shoot Williams.

But McKinney insisted on the stand that he was with Kimble during the shooting. He said that he had sex with her shortly after arriving and then slept on the living room couch. According to McKinney, he left early that morning because his mother was paging him, and he told Kimble that he had to attend to the matter in person because Kimble did not have a phone.

During the trial, Kimble did not support McKinney's story. The witness did not mention having sex with McKinney and claimed he slept on the couch. She said he was gone by the time she woke up around 11: 30 a.m.; she did not hear him leave her house. McKinney claimed that she was lying on the stand because she did not want to be further involved in his case.

Henry also pointed out to McKinney that he hid his car in the back of Kimble's house and took the plates off his car to avoid police. Still insisting that he did not kill Williams, McKinney admitted taking the plates off his car because he knew police would be looking for him because of his previous altercation his Williams. However, Henry asked McKinney why he would run away from a crime scene if he did not do anything wrong.

McKinney also may have undermined a possible mitigating factor as jurors consider the death penalty against him. Through the testimony of previous defense witness clinical psychiatrist John Ciocca, there were suggestions that McKinney was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana at the time of the shooting. McKinney admitted smoking marijuana that night but said that he was only "a little tipsy" from alcohol. He denied being "stumbling drunk," prompting prosecutor Henry to point out that McKinney was sober and clear-minded enough to drive his car.

In addition to first-degree murder, McKinney was convicted of attempted second-degree murder on Williams' partner, Officer Frank Lee. He will be sentenced for that crime on a later date.

 
 

Club patron convicted in Memphis police murder case

By Jeff Gamble and Aldina Vazao Kennedy - CourtTV.com

July 15, 1999

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Court TV) After deliberating for two and a half hours, jurors found Timothy McKinney guilty of first-degree murder in the December 1997 shooting death of police officer Don Williams outside a Memphis, Tenn. comedy club. The defendant, who was on parole for an aggravated robbery conviction at the time of the murder, may face the death penalty. McKinney was also found guilty of attempted murder in the second degree of another officer, Frank Lee, who testified against the defendant during the trial.

The penalty phase of the trial begins Thursday morning. McKinney faces three possible sentences for murder in the first degree: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 51 years; life in prison without parole; and death. McKinney also faces a sentence of 6 to 12 years in prison for attempted murder in the second degree.

McKinney's defense, which rested its case without calling any witnesses following the defendant's decision not to testify, is expected, however, to call witnesses in the penalty phase. The defense will call members of the defendant's family to the stand as well as a psychologist and a witness who will review the defendant's school records.

The prosecution is expected to call a witness to testify to the defendant's prior record. The state will also introduce victim impact testimony from Williams' family.

McKinney shot Williams after an altercation outside a Memphis nightclub, Crumpy's Comedy Club, in December 1997. In the early morning hours, McKinney was thrown out of the club and was unable to locate his car. Thinking that his car had been stolen, McKinney soon became involved in an altercation outside the club and began threatening the custodians. (It was later revealed that one of McKinney's friends had moved his car without his knowledge.)

Williams approached McKinney and asked him to leave or be arrested. McKinney allegedly responded, "I just got out of jail. Going to jail doesn't mean anything to me."

According to prosecutors, McKinney left only to return a few minutes later, trying to get back into the club. But Officers Williams and Lee thwarted his attempts, and McKinney falsely accused Williams of throwing a punch at him. McKinney allegedly left a third time, but returned and shot Williams at point-blank range from behind.

During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutor Jerry Harris called the killing a "cowardly act" and the result of McKinney's vengeful state of mind. McKinney's vengefulness prompted him to return three times to Crumpy's Comedy Club after the initial confrontation with Williams and fatally wound the off-duty officer that night, the prosecutor told jurors.

"The proof in this case is overwhelming," Harris said, referring to the identification by witnesses and circumstantial evidence. The prosecution emphasized the testimony of their key witness (and Williams' partner) Officer Lee, who chased the shooter down an alley after the crime and identified the shooter as McKinney, despite the fact that the killer's face was partially covered.

Prosecutor Harris also stressed the testimony of Joyce Jeltz, an eyewitness to the shooting who said the shooter wore dark pants, dark clothes, and a gold vest apparently worn by McKinney that night. Officer Lee, however, did not remember seeing a vest on the shooter.

The prosecution tried to explain the differences in their two key witnesses' testimony by arguing that eyewitnesses often focus on different items relating to the perpetrator and that this alone does not negate what they see.

In his closing, defense attorney James Ball unsuccessfully attempted to put reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.

"My client is as innocent as anyone in this courtroom," said Ball. The defense attorney reminded jurors that the prosecutors had the burden of proving its case beyond reasonable doubt which, he claimed, they had not done. Ball attempted to pick apart the testimony of Lee, saying that his identification of the shooter was weak because he saw the gunman in bad lighting after an intense gun battle.

The defense also noted the conflicts between the testimony of eyewitness Jeltz and Lee over the gold vest. Ball then attacked the credibility of Jeltz, who had not spoken of the vest in her initial police statements.

 
 


Despite his request for a chance to prove his innocence, jurors imposed the death penalty on Timothy McKinney. (Court TV)

 

 

 
 
 
 
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