After serving 21 years of a 30-year prison sentence, hip-hop artist McKinley ‘Mac’ Phipps has been granted clemency by Louisiana’s Governor John Bel Edwards. The clemency is the latest development in Phipps decades-long fight for his freedom.
“We are nearing the finish line in a long fought battle in securing McKinley’s freedom,” Mac’s wife, Angelique Phipps, told HuffPost. “While he still has the upcoming parole hearing and no definitive release date, we are relieved, grateful, and looking forward to the future.”
The sentiment was echoed on Mac’s official Instagram page, which includes a screenshot of the HuffPost’s article as well as appreciation to the many supporters who’ve called for Mac’s release.
“While there’s not a definitive release date, we are nearing the finish line. We are grateful for the love & continued support,” the Instagram caption said.
The former No Limit MC was a rising star when was imprisoned at 22 for the slaying of a teenage fan at a show in Slidell, Louisiana in 2000. He has always maintained his innocence, however, and over the years mounting evidence has supported his claim.
In addition to another man confessing to the shooting, a witness recanted testimony in 2015 and said she was coerced by the district attorney and four other witnesses said they were either ignored or threatened. They also used Mac’s lyrics against him during trial, despite them not being based in reality.
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Mac appeared before the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole on Feb. 22, which made a unanimous vote that he be made eligible for parole immediately.
It was a victory for Mac, who was denied the first time he applied for clemency in 2016. According to NPR, he told ‘Louder Than A Riot,’ he decided to try again in 2018.
“I kind of just went at it like everything I do in life is like, okay, here goes nothing. Let’s roll. May the chips fall where they may,” Mac said.
His mother, father and wife joined the Zoom meeting before the board and were elated when the unanimous vote came in.
“I was actually crying tears of joy, you know, that came from my soul. At last, I couldn’t believe that all of these people agreed to give my son a chance to return back to normality,” Mac’s dad told NPR a few days after the hearing. “Just as I cried tears for my son, I cried tears for Barron Victor too, to the kid that got killed.”
The final decision for clemency remained up to Edwards. After “very thoughtful and thorough review,” a spokesperson said Edwards approved Mac’s application.
While clemency doesn’t exonerate him of the crime, Mac’s attorney, Stanton Jones, is working to reverse the conviction. A racist law that allowed convictions by divided juries in Louisiana and Oregon was cast down by the Supreme Court last year and Jones hopes since Mac’s jury was split, the law will be applied retroactively.
The SCOTUS is set to make that decision this summer.
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