MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com)- He's been on death row for 13 years and the week of April 9, 2012, he has a chance at freedom.
In 1999, Timothy McKinney was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of off duty Memphis Police officer Don Williams. For years defense lawyers have tried to prove it was someone else who pulled the trigger. In a rare move, in 2010, he was granted a new trial. That trial begins in Shelby County, April 9, 2012.
It's now Paradise Cleaners on Hollywood in North Memphis. But in 1997, it was Crumpy's Comedy Club and on Christmas night, was host to hundreds of people, including McKinney.
In 1999, it took a jury only four hours to convict McKinney of first degree murder in the death of Officer Williams. He was running security at Crumpys the night he was killed. For the past 13 years, McKinney's been living on death row.
McKinney's defense lawyer, Marty McAfee, says his client is, "very nervous as he hopes the jury will see the truth in this case and see who really committed this crime."
Only a handful of Tennessee death penalty cases have been overturned since the 1970's. Williams is a rare situation. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the retrial because of "Counsel's deficient actions throughout their representation of (McKinney)... The errors cumulatively prejudiced (McKinney's) right to a fair proceeding."
McAfee says, "The lawyers that tried this the first time did not look at the evidence that was right in front of them that showed the police arrested the wrong man."
The Court of Appeals stated there is reasonable probability that with different counsel, "the outcome of the trial would have been different."
In 2010, McAfee joined a high powered team of lawyers from New York law firm, Davis Polk.
For years the firm had been fighting for the new trial. McAfee says the defense team will prove that McKinney was mis-identified by eyewitnesses, everything from his clothing to his car didn't match original descriptions of the suspect.
McAfee says, "They investigated the wrong man, arrested the wrong man and they have never investigated the man that committed this crime. We will show to the jury that the police should have looked at a different person in this case."
According to McAfee the man they believe killed Williams was thrown out of the club earlier that night. He says his suspect will be a pivotal part of the case presented to the jury.
After years of work, lawyers from Davis Polk will join McAfee and Shelby County's Chief Capital Defense Attorney, Gerald Skahan, to fight for McKinney's freedom, a move that leaves everything on the line.
McKinney's new trial is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 9, 2012. It could last up to two weeks.