Yet another reason to abolish the death penalty

There are many reasons to hate the death penalty. But one of the main ones is because poor defendants are often sent to death row by prosecutors who simply don’t care if they are guilty of the crime or not but simply want to get a conviction. The latest example of this is that of Anthony Ray Hinton who was sentenced to death and spent 28 years in jail in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit. He has just been released at age 58 after vigorous efforts on his behalf. But he could well have ended up dead, one more innocent person killed because our society’s obsession with vengeance is matched by a shocking lack of concern about fairness and justice.

The only evidence linking him to the slayings were bullets that state experts then said had markings that matched a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Hinton’s mother. There were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony.

Stevenson said a defense analysis during appeal showed that bullets did not match the gun. He then tried in vain for years to persuade the state of Alabama to re-examine the evidence.

The Jefferson County district attorney’s office on Wednesday moved to drop the case after their forensics experts were unable to match crime-scene bullets to the gun.

[Equal Justice Initiative director Bryan Stevenson, who waged a 16-year fight for Hinton’s release] called Hinton’s conviction a “case study” in what is wrong with the American justice system.

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

“Prosecutors should have done this testing years ago.”

The Alabama attorney general’s office declined to comment.

I am sure that Hinton will sue the state for damages but how can money replace what a person loses in spending so many years of life in prison?


  1. says

    He has just been released at age 58 after vigorous efforts on his behalf. But he could well have ended up dead,

    In cases where the victim of malicious prosecution has been killed, the US states refuse to reopen the case or allow new evidence to be heard. They fall back on one of two lies:

    1) “The guilty has already paid for the crime. Don’t make the victim’s family suffer.”

    2) “What about the careers and lives of those who took part in the case -- the police, the judge, the lawyers, the government, etc? They could be liable if we reopen the case.”

  2. smrnda says

    @leftdownunder #2
    If I were asked about 2, I would say that that is *exactly* what I want. When cops, prosecutors, judges either screw up or deliberately punish the innocent, there should be strict penalties. The police in the US are, at best, pea brained thugs and at worse an organized crime racket. I’d finally like to see lots of cops put on trial for the crimes they commit daily.

  3. busterggi says

    If he were in Texas he’d still be in prison -- they don’t believe on reversing decisions even if they’re proven wrong. Hell, they’d probably execute him for embarrassing them.

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