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30 Years on Death Row: Wrongfully Convicted Man Offers Forgiveness

04-02-2018

Anthony Ray Hinton spent three decades on Alabama's death row for crimes he did not commit.  

In 1985 he was convicted of the murders of two restaurant workers in Birmingham.  Thirty years later his conviction was overturned and he walked free. 

In a new book, The Sun Shines: How I Found Life and Freedom On Death Row, Hinton shares how his faith sustained him as he waited to die in prison, and how it helped him forgive those who wrongfully prosecuted him.

Evidence used to convict Hinton was a set of bullets recovered from the crime scene.  Investigators said the bullets matched a gun found at Hinton's mother's home, though ballistic testing was never performed on the gun.

The Equal Justice Initiative, which works to clear wrongfully convicted people, worked on Hinton's case for 16 years. 

After a new trial, it was discovered that the bullets did not match.

On April 3, 2015, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction and the state dropped all charges.  Hinton was released from prison.

"All those snapping the cameras, I want you to know there is a God," Hinton told reporters the day he walked free. 

His comments were captured on video.  

Hinton continued, "He sits high but he looks low.  He will destroy but yet he will defend.  And he defends me.  And I just want to thank him. I'm not ashamed to let you know he sent me, not just a lawyer, but the best lawyers.  The best lawyers.  And I couldn't have made it without them." 

He also offered a prayer for the family of the victims.  

"I will continue to pray for you just as I have for thirty years.  A miscarriage of justice not only to me but to the victim's families," said Hinton.    

Since being out of prison, Hinton has been open with more details about his experience behind bars, including the stench on death row.

"I never smelled anything as worse than the smell of a human being set on fire," he said in an interview on NBC's Megyn Kelly Today.  "And when I got there the state of Alabama was in the process of executing four men.  And going into the third man I asked the guard, I said, 'Officer is there anything that you could give me so I won't have to smell this smell.'  And he looked at me and said, 'No but if there's a consolation you'll get used to it. And he said, 'And by the way one day somebody will smell your flesh.'"  

Despite the abuse he faced in prison, Hinton made it a point to pray for the authorities and others involved in the case.

"I've been praying to God for the DA, for this judge, and especially for the victims," he writes in his book about the hearing for his sentencing.  "You got to give an account for what you done, and it don't matter to me, because if I can recall, Jesus was prosecuted, accused falsely for things he didn't do, and all he did was try to love and save this world, and he died and suffered. If I have to die for something I didn't do, so be it. My life is not in the judge's hands. My life is not in your hands, but it's in God's hands."

Meanwhile, many say Hinton's case and others like it, raise serious questions about the country's criminal justice system.

But Hinton says despite the wrong he has suffered, he has no hard feelings.

"Bitterness kills the soul," he said in an interview with ABC News shortly after being freed.  "I cannot hate because my Bible teaches me not to hate.  I've seen hate at its worse.  What would it profit me to hate?"  

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