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28 Years On Death Row: Anthony Ray Hinton

At age 29, Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death row for a crime he didn’t commit. For 28 years he stayed there. He was wrongly convicted of the murder of two restaurant workers in Birmingham, Alabama in 1985.  John Davidson and Thomas Wayne Vasona, were killed in separate incidents during armed robberies at a fast food restaurant. A survivor of a third restaurant robbery picked Hinton's photo out of a lineup, and the police investigated him. The prosecution's only evidence at trial was a statement that ballistics tests showed crime scene bullets matched his mother's gun. No fingerprints or eyewitness testimony.

“My only crime was being born black, or being born black in Alabama.”
— Hinton in "The Sun Does Shine,"

The Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Alabama, handled Hinton’s appeals. They worked on the case for 16 years. During the appeals, they showed that the bullets from the crime scenes did not match Hinton's mother's gun, but the state of Alabama refused to grant a new trial. In an appeal that reached the US Supreme Court in 2014, the Court ruled that Hinton's original defense lawyer was "constitutionally deficient" and his case should be retried. Hinton's original defense lawyer had wrongly thought he had only $1,000 available to hire a ballistics expert to rebut the state’s case on evidence. The Jefferson County district attorney’s office on April 1, 2015 moved to drop the case after their forensics experts were unable to match crime-scene bullets to Hinton's gun. On April 3, 2015, Hinton was released from the prison after the Jefferson County Circuit judge, overturned his conviction and the state dropped all charges against him. Hinton is the 152nd person exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in the state of Alabama.

After spending 28 years of his life on death row and missing many important life events, like the passing of his mother, Hinton did the unexpected, he thrived and grew from the experience. He became a New York Times Best-Selling Author, with the March, 27th, 2018 publishing of his autobiography, “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row,”. His optimism and perseverance threaded through the chapters of his memoir were enough to get Oprah’s attention and it became Oprah’s 2018 Summer Book Club Selection. With a forward by Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, the memoir explores the power of hope sustained in dark times.

“I forgive them. I made a choice after the first difficult few weeks of freedom, when everything was new and strange and the world didn’t seem to make sense to me. I chose to forgive. I chose to stay vigilant to any signs of anger or hate in my heart.

They took 30 years of my life.

If I couldn’t forgive, if I couldn’t feel joy, that would be like giving them the rest of my life.

The rest of my life is mine.

Alabama took 30 years.

That was enough.”
— Hinton in "The Sun Does Shine,"

Purchase "The Sun Does Shine,"  Here.

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