In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of murdering two men in Alabama and sentenced to death. For the next three decades, confined to a 5 by 8 foot Death Row cell, he maintained his innocence. Finally, the state of Alabama agreed: On Friday, Hinton's conviction was overturned and the 58-year-old was set free.
"The sun does shine," Hinton said upon learning of his release. But he did not mince words in describing the injustice brought against him.
"They just didn’t take me from my family and friends," he said. "They had every intention of executing me for something I didn’t do."
The evidence used to convict Hinton, who was found guilty of killing two restaurant workers in separate incidents in 1985, was flimsy in the extreme. No eyewitness placed Hinson at the scene of the crime, and police found no evidence of his fingerprints. Instead, prosecutors linked a set of bullets recovered at the crime scene to a gun found at Hinton's mother's house—even though they never proved that the gun fired those bullets. Hinton's defense was little help. An "expert witness," hired for his low price, had one eye and could not see through a forensic microscope. Nevertheless, a jury sentenced Hinton to death. Only the work of the Equal Justice Institute, a non-profit organization which works to exonerate falsely convicted criminals, led to his eventual exoneration.