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Afte three Decades on Death Row, Alabama Inmate’s Conviction Overturned

April 4, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Afte three Decades on Death Row, Alabama Inmate’s Conviction Overturned

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An Alabama man sitting on Death Row since 1985 for two murders he has always maintained he never committed, is now a free man.

During the 28 years Anthony Ray Hinton, 58, spent incarcerated, his mother passed away, he missed his children growing up and watched fellow inmates he knew, be put to death.

However, on Friday, an emotional Hinton tasted freedom for the first time. The District Attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case after new forensic testing had repudiated the prosecution’s only evidence used to convict Hinton.

After a gross miscarriage of justice, Ballistic testing of the crime-scene bullets used to tie Hinton to the murders, finally vindicated the Alabama man.

A judge sentenced Hinton in 1985 to death for the murders of John Davidson and Thomas Wayne Vason. The two men worked at fast-food restaurants in Birmingham both killed in separate armed robberies.

Hinton became a suspect after a survivor at a third establishment pointed him out in a lineup. Prosecutors convicted Hinton without fingerprints linking him to the weapon or eyewitness testimony linking him to the scene.

The evidence linking him to the crime were four bullets, which state ballistic experts said at the time, had similar markings that matched a .38-caliber revolver belonging to Hinton’s mother.

As his lawyers, walked Hinton out of the jail, family members and friends rushed to embrace him. Both of His sisters overcome with tears of joy and thanked the Lord on a Good Friday, as they embraced their brother.

“The prosecution had every intention of executing me for a crime I didn’t commit,” said Hinton, who stood outside the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham.

“I shouldn’t have had to sit on Death-Row for thirty years, all they had to do was test the gun,” he told reporters. For over 16 years Bryan Stevenson, the Director of Equal Justice Initiative, Advocated for Hinton’s release. He said although the occasion is joyous; none the less, the case was tragic.

“He didn’t just lose his freedom; he had to live a life in solitary confinement on death row. Condemned to a 5-by-8 cell where the state’s primary goal was to kill him every day,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said during the appeals process, a defense ballistics analysis showed not only that the rounds did not match the gun but casted doubts whether the same gun was used to fire bullets.

For years, he attempted in vain to persuade the State to reconsider a review of the evidence.

However, they caught a major break last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a new trial after ruling that Hinton’s counsel was “constitutionally deficient.”

Mistakenly, his then defense lawyer wrongly assumed that Hinton had only a $1,000 to hire a ballistics expert to refute the state’s evidence.

The only expert willing to take the case for the price was a one-eyed civil engineer with no background in ballistics training, who at the time admitted having trouble even operating a microscope.

During cross-examination at the trial, the prosecution destroyed the defense witness’ testimony.

On Wednesday, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office moved to drop the case on Wednesday. The move came after the State’s forensics experts had failed to match the crime scene bullets to the gun.

Stevenson proclaimed Hinton’s conviction as a “case study” with what is wrong with the American justice system.

“We have a system that treats you fair and finds you innocent if you are rich. And if you are poor and innocent, you are found guilty and this case proves it. Unfortunately, We have a system compromised by racial bias. We have a system that doesn’t do the right thing when the right thing is apparent,” said Stevenson.

He added, “Prosecutors had a responsibility to get this testing done years ago, and they failed,”

Three experts from the state’s Department of Forensic Sciences examined the bullets ahead of the new trial. According to Chief Deputy District Attorney John R. Bowers, Jr, the three experts came to the same conclusion.

“They couldn’t conclusively determine whether the bullets fired were from the revolver taken from Hinton’s home,” said Bowers. Hinton has become the sixth person exonerated from death row in Alabama and the 152nd person in the United States since 1973.

Hinton said the victims’ families will remain in his prayers as they have for the past 30 years. “There’s been a “miscarriage of justice” for them as well,” he said.

However, Hinton didn’t hide his anger for everyone responsible for his conviction, saying “Everybody that played a part in sending me to death row, you will answer to God.”

Hinton said he planned to visit the cemetery and place flowers on his mother’s grave. He spoke of having to adjust to a new modern world after spending almost half of his life in solitary confinement.

“This world is a very different place than what it was 30 years ago,” Stevenson said. “Back then there was no Internet; There was no email back then. I gave him an iPhone this morning, and He’s completely mystified by that.”

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