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DeWayne McKinney

Other California Cases with Mistaken Witness Identifications
In 1980, a gunman entered a Burger King in Orange County, California around closing time and forced several employees into a walk-in refrigerator.

The gunman fatally shot the 19-year-old manager, Walter, Bell, in the back of the head.

Los Angeles police suspected that Los Angeles street gang members were involved and assembled mug shots of gang members, including 20-year-old DeWayne McKinney.

An Burger King employee was shown McKinney’s photo and said that he looked like the gunman.  Two other employees said that “something was familiar” in McKinney’s eyes, and picked him out of a physical lineup.

These employees, as well as a fourth, identified McKinney at trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

McKinney presented several family members who insisted that he was at his sister’s home recovering from a leg injury and could only walk with crutches at the time of the murder robbery--and therefore would not have been able to vault over the counter as witnesses had described. The prosecution used thinly-veiled racist comments to attack the credibility of McKinney’s witnesses, who were all low-income African-Americans.

Despite the absence of physical evidence, a jury convicted McKinney of first-degree murder and robbery in 1981 and he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1997, the Orange County District Attorney's office received a letter from an inmate naming another man as the getaway driver for the crime and identifying Raymond Herman Jackett as the gunman.  The driver admitted his role and confirmed that McKinney was not involved. In addition, two of the eyewitnesses recanted their identifications.

The District Attorney’s Office reinvestigated the case, and in January 2000, joined the defense in a motion to vacate McKinney's conviction. McKinney was released on January 28, 2000.

He sought compensation from the State of California, but his claim was denied. He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit and ultimately it was settled for $1.7 million, according to news accounts. McKinney then invested in ATM machines. Eventually he went to Hawaii where he became a millionaire and the owner of the second largest ATM business there.

That was where he died. In 2008, McKinney died in a moped accident in Honolulu.
- Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 1/14/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1980
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No