TAMPA, Fla. — Last year, a judge overturned Dean McKee’s 1988 murder conviction for the murder a of homeless black man, Isaiah Walker. Today, McKee walked out of the Hillsborough County jail a free man with certain “conditions.”
McKee was released on an appeal bond after the Innocence Project Florida took his case back in 2011.
“So overwhelmed it’s been a long road,” McKee told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska outside the jail. “Just some wonderful people kept me strong and focused and when you open your heart some amazing things happen. I’m grateful, I’m blessed.”
A homeless black man, Isaiah Walker, 41, was killed on the steps of the Tampa Museum of Art on December 20, 1987.
McKee and his older brother Scott were self proclaimed neo-Nazi skinheads. Scott testified his younger brother stabbed Walker. Because of his testimony against Dean and a guilty plea for attempted murder, Scott was given a more lenient sentence serving less than a year in prison.
“This is the first day of the rest of your life we have more work to completely vindicate you and we are going to do it,” Seth Miller the Executive Director of Innocence Project Florida said. Miller got involved in 2011 and worked to get new DNA evidence and testimony in front of a judge.
According to an October 2017 release from the Innocence Project:
“the court found the new DNA testing on biological material from the victim’s fingernails excluded Dean Mckee as a contributor of the DNA. Moreover, the court relied on expert testimony and consensus peer-reviewed scientific literature presented at the hearing to find that that the DNA evidence “calls into question the State’s theory of prosecution that both the Defendant and Scott McKee fought [the victim] before the Defendant stabbed him.” The court also credited testimony from two of Scott McKee’s previous girlfriends indicating that Scott, not Dean, actually stabbed the victim, that it was Dean who tried to prevent him from doing so, and that Dean took the fall for Scott McKee, who could have received the death penalty had he been convicted of first-degree murder. For his part, Scott McKee took the stand at the post conviction evidentiary hearing and, when asked to detail what occurred during the murder, he refused to testify, instead invoking his right to remain silent to avoid incriminating himself.”
The state of Florida is appealing the court’s decision. If they lose the appeal they can decide whether to drop the case or refile charges against McKee.
Dean’s older brother Scott is a convicted sex offender. He served more time in prison for that crime than his guilty plea for premeditated first degree murder. Because of the Double Jeopardy law, Scott McKee, can’t be tried twice for the same crime.
While out on bond, McKee is required to wear an ankle monitoring device.
Miller said he is already set up with a job and will be living with his fiancé Danie Cutler. Cutler is a middle school teacher that has known McKee since she was 15. They were engaged in October 2016.