Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Anthony Ray Hinton: Alabama; Superb article on Anthony Ray Hinton in the context of Alabama's love of the death penalty (especialy for blacks!) "What happened in court involved a one-eyed defense ballistics expert — the only one Hinton’s lawyer mistakenly thought he could afford — and a prosecutor who described Hinton as “evil-looking.”..."The only physical evidence prosecutors said linked Hinton to the murders was ballistic. When all was said and done, Hinton was sentenced to death." by reporter Cody Owens; (Must, Must read'; HL);

STORY: "Death down the hall,"  by reporter Cody Owens, published by Weld on June, 9, 2015.

SUB-HEADING: "Per capita, Alabama has more inmates on death row than any other state. Where do we go from here?"

GIST: "For 30 years Anthony Ray Hinton lived down the hall from “Yellow Mama,” the Alabama electric chair that, for decades, carried out the state’s executions before being decommissioned in 2002 and put in the attic at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.  Hinton, a black man from Birmingham, watched as 23 men went to go meet “Mama” during his time on death row at Holman. For 30 years, he sat in his cell and wondered when he would be called to meet “Mama” while he tried to prove his innocence in a state that, historically, had only exonerated four death row inmates. On July 25, 1985, while at his mother’s house, Hinton was arrested and charged in the deaths of two men, one an assistant manager at a Mrs. Winners’ restaurant on Southside, and the other at a Captain D’s in Woodlawn. Authorities believed he was responsible for a string of robberies that left the two men dead and another wounded. The man who survived, who worked at a Quincy’s in Bessemer, identified Hinton as the man that shot him. What happened in court involved a one-eyed defense ballistics expert — the only one Hinton’s lawyer mistakenly thought he could afford — and a prosecutor who described Hinton as “evil-looking.” The only physical evidence prosecutors said linked Hinton to the murders was ballistic. When all was said and done, Hinton was sentenced to death. And there he sat for 30 years, just down the hall. On April 3, 2015, Hinton was released after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he had ineffective defense counsel, after a reexamination of the ballistic evidence that could not prove that a weapon found in his mother’s home was the murder weapon, and after prosecutors dropped the charges. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro dismissed the case. Hinton became the 152nd prisoner released from death row in the United States since 1983. On June 9, Alfred Dewayne Brown, a Texas man on death row, was exonerated for the murder of a Houston police officer, marking the fourth death row case that has been dismissed by courts in 2015. Hinton’s release helped spark up an old conversation, not just in Alabama, but nationwide; with so many people having been set free after being on death row, either because they were innocent or could not be proved guilty — on average, 4.75 people a year since 1983 — should the death penalty be put down? .........The tears fell freely as Hinton stepped out of the Jefferson County Jail and into the arms of his family and friends. He was entering into a world he hadn’t known in some time. In many ways it was a familiar world with simple pleasures long forgotten, he said. “This is the first time I’ve felt the rain in 30 years,” Hinton said as ABC News cameras followed him after his release. “It feels amazing. “They had every intention to execute me for something I didn’t do. For all of us who say that we believe in justice, this is the case to start showing people,” Hinton said during his brief comments to the press after he was released. “As for the victims’ families, I will continue to pray for you, just as I have for the last 30 years. It was a miscarriage of justice not just to me, but also to the victims.” The most critical piece of evidence in Hinton’s case was the gun, which was found at his mother’s house the night of his arrest, Dunham explained. During the trial, Hinton’s defense attorney thought he could only afford a one-eyed ballistics expert, a civil engineer, who was elderly, and more of an expert in military ordnance than in ballistics. “He was so inept during the trial, he had to have help to turn on the machine to look at the bullets… The prosecution just tore him apart,” Dunham said. “Miraculously, he actually made the correct determination, but the prosecution worked him over so badly that the jury didn’t consider his opinion.” “All they had to do was test the gun,” Hinton said after his release. “But when you think you’re high and mighty and above the law, you think you don’t have to answer to nobody. But I got news for you, everybody that played a part in sending me to death row will answer to God.” What happened to Hinton back in 1985 demonstrates how access to money often makes the difference in the outcome of a case, Dunham explained. “The Alabama system of indigent representation is not regarded as one of better in the country. The indigency of the defendant places him or her at risk of an unfair death sentence. Race plays big role in this as well. You don’t need to look further than Anthony Ray Hinton for evidence of this,” Dunham said. “Basically he was a prime suspect in the murder based on an erroneous identification by one of the victims. That turned out to be a demonstrative error. During the time of one of the murders, he was in a locked warehouse working, sweeping floors and he had signed in there. His boss even corroborated this in court,” Dunham explained. The victim in question worked at a Quincy’s steakhouse and identified Hinton as the man who shot him. While Hinton had an alibi, prosecutors at the time attacked the contention that Hinton was unable to leave work and commit a robbery. They did not try him in the Quincy’s case, however. Nonetheless, the prosecution focused their attention toward convicting Hinton. At one point, Dunham said, the prosecutor made an overtly racist comment toward Hinton, saying, “Anyone could tell he was evil just by looking at him.” Thirty years later, he was released and the charges dropped. “So somehow, this one-eyed ballistics expert, all along, had formulated the correct scientific opinion,” Dunham added. Hinton’s case has shed light on a series of problems with the lack of consistency among death penalty sentences, from admissible forensic evidence to eyewitness testimonies that result in a conviction, Dunham said."

The entire story can be found at:

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