Hope for a More Just Society

Anthony Hinton was born in 1956 in Alabama. When he was 29, he was employed in a warehouse and living with his mother. He was arrested for the murder of two fast food managers during an armed robbery. A third fast food manager who survived the robbery attempt identified him in a line-up.

He was represented in court by a public defender. He provided inadequate counsel and never accepted Anthony’s innocence. The prosecution’s only evidence was ballistics tests of the bullets from the crime scene. They were shown to match the gun his mother owned. This evidence was later found to be false.

Anthony’s boss testified that he was at work when the murders were committed. The jury ignored this testimony. There was no fingerprint or eyewitness testimony. He was found guilty of the two murders and sentenced to death.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and later the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld his conviction. Anthony was imprisoned on death row and placed in solitary confinement for 28 years.

While in prison, Anthony organized a book club. At first, the membership in the club grew as reading was a way of escaping the thoughts of eventual execution. But the membership declined as 54 prisoners were put to death. Anthony was the last prisoner on death row.

Anthony’s mother and a close friend never gave up hope that his conviction would be overturned. The Equal Justice Initiative took up his case and fought for 16 years to get his conviction reversed. The Alabama court system continued to deny him his freedom. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in a unanimous decision.

Anthony attempted to get financial restitution for his time in prison, but the state legislature would not agree, claiming that he had not proven his innocence.

Since his release, Anthony has spoken about the need for criminal justice reform. He has written a memoir that speaks of his hope for a more honest judicial system. In the past 50 years, more than 150 persons have been released from death row convictions. They never gave up hope, nor did those who supported them.

Isn’t it ironic that those who have been wrongly convicted have never given up hope while many of the rest of us seem to have lost hope that our society will ever become more just.

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“All of y’all blacks say you didn’t do something.”– Anthony’s defense counsel when speaking to him

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