Anthony Ray Hinton Is Free After 30 Years Wrongfully on Death Row

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Anthony Ray Hinton walked out of the Jefferson County Jail at 9:30 a.m. today a free man for the first time in 30 years. "The sun does shine," he said as he was embraced by family and friends.

One of the longest serving death row prisoners in Alabama history and among the longest serving condemned prisoners to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence, Mr. Hinton is the 152nd person exonerated from death row since 1983.

Thirty years ago, he was arrested and charged with two capital murders based solely on the assertion that a revolver taken from his mother’s home was the gun used in both murders and in a third uncharged crime. EJI attorneys engaged three of the nation’s top firearms examiners who found in 1999 and testified in 2002 that the revolver could not be matched to crime evidence.

For more than fifteen years, EJI attorneys repeatedly have asked state officials to re-examine the evidence in this case, but former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber, and Attorneys General from Troy King to Luther Strange, all failed to do so.

After the United States Supreme Court reversed lower court rulings in 2014, Judge Petro granted Mr. Hinton a new trial last September. District Attorney Brandon Falls's office took months before finally conducting the testing that EJI has requested for fifteen years. That testing confirmed that the crime bullets cannot be matched to the Hinton weapon or to a single gun, and the State moved to dismiss the charges against Mr. Hinton.

Judge Petro entered an Order of Nolle Prosequi yesterday and ordered Mr. Hinton's release.

Bryan Stevenson, Mr. Hinton's attorney and EJI director, said that his wrongful conviction, and the length of time it took to free him, is due to prosecutorial misconduct and the indifference of judges. "We gave the prosecutors every opportunity to do the right thing. They just would not do it."

Mr. Hinton was convicted because he didn't have the money to prove his innocence at trial, Mr. Stevenson said.

"He was convicted because he’s poor. We have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent, and his case proves it. We have a system that is compromised by racial bias, and his case proves it.”

“We’ve gotten into a culture,” he said, “where the pressure to convict and to achieve these outcomes is so great that owning up to mistakes is less frequent than you’d like to imagine.”
Outside the jail this morning, Mr. Hinton said he will continue to pray for the families of the murder victims, who together with him have suffered a miscarriage of justice. “I shouldn’t have (sat) on death row for 30 years,” Mr. Hinton told reporters.

“All they had to do was to test the gun." He expressed the wish that prosecutors and judges who were indifferent to his innocence be held accountable.

“The State of Alabama let me down tremendously,” Mr. Hinton said in his first interview after his release. “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.”