On Friday, Anthony Ray Hinton walked out of prison a free man after spending 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Hinton is the 152nd person added to the Death Penalty Information Center’s Innocence List, a database started in 1973 that charts all of those who were to be killed by the state but were totally innocent.
“The State of Alabama let me down tremendously,” Mr. Hinton said in his first interview after his release, according to The New York Times. “I have no respect for the prosecutors, the judges. And I say that not with malice in my heart. I say it because they took 30 years from me.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Hinton was convicted and sentenced to death for two 1985 capital murders at Alabama fast-food restaurants based solely on the State’s assertion that a gun in his mother’s house was the gun used in both murders and a third crime for which he was not charged. The ballistics test that would have exonerated him was not done by his lawyer.
Hinton, 29 at the time of the crimes, was also exonerated by polygraph administered by the police, but the judge at his trial refused to admit it. The prosecutor who tried Hinton had a documented history of racial bias and said he could tell Hinton was guilty and “evil” solely from his appearance, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, which won his freedom.
The cards were indeed stacked against Hinton, so much so that the Supreme Court said he had not been adequately represented. According to the DPIC:
Mr. Hinton’s trial lawyer did not know the law and mistakenly believed that he could not get enough money to hire a qualified firearms expert. Instead, Mr. Hinton’s lawyer hired a visually impaired civil engineer with no expertise in firearms identification who acknowledged that he could not operate the machinery needed to examine the evidence. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that Mr. Hinton had been provided substandard representation and returned his case to the state courts for further proceedings.
In addition to the forensics, Hinton had a powerful alibi for the night of one of the three crimes, says the DPIC. He was working in a secure warehouse 15 miles from the fast-food restaurant that was robbed. Hinton’s supervisor and other employees confirmed his alibi and after his arrest, similar robberies of fast-food restaurants continued in Birmingham, says the organization in a press release.
Hinton is the second person exonerated and freed from death row this year because of evidence of innocence. He is the sixth person added to DPIC’s Innocence List from Alabama.
“Cases like Anthony Ray Hinton’s give the public pause about the death penalty. As hard as we may try, humans will never be perfect and there will be mistakes,” said Robert Dunham, Executive Director of DPIC. “Despite layers of state court review, we still came perilously close to executing an innocent man.”
More than almost taking his life, it is unclear if Hinton will receive ANY compensation from Alabama.
“I’ve got to forgive,” said Hinton, as reported by The Times. “I lived in hell for 30 years, so I don’t want to die and go to hell. So I’ve got to forgive. I don’t have a choice.”
— Cassandra (@CassandraRules) April 3, 2015