In his first day free, after nearly 30 years on Alabama’s death row, Ray Hinton said he kept asking a question to his childhood friend.
“You just got to tell me we can stay out tonight that we don’t have to go in after an hour,” Hinton said, referring to the hour limit that inmates got on yard time.
Hinton spent 28 years on death row for two 1985 murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast-food restaurants in Birmingham. He was set free on April 3 after new ballistics tests contradicted the only evidence — an analysis of crime-scene bullets — used to convict him decades ago.
In his first days off death row, Hinton said he sometimes enjoys just driving, relishing the freedom to simply move about as he wants. He says he’s not angry, crediting God for suppressing the hatred that otherwise could devour him “like a form of cancer.
” “I have too much to live for to allow a bunch of cowards to take my joy. I refuse to give them my joy,” Hinton said.
“I’m at peace with myself. The thing is, are they at peace? They know what they did. They know they lied 30 years ago. I feel that every man that played a part in sending me to prison, every man or woman, whether the judges, prosecutors, ballistic experts, or witness, whoever — they will answer to God. So I’m going to enjoy my life the best I can,” Hinton said.
Attorney Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama based Equal Justice Initiative has called it a case study in how poverty and racial bias led to a wrongful conviction.
Hinton was arrested for the two 1985 murders after a survivor at a third robbery identified Hinton in a photo lineup — even though he was clocked in working at a grocery store warehouse 15 miles away. There were no fingerprints or eye- witness testimony, but prosecutors said at the time that bullets found at the murder scenes matched a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Hinton’s mother.
His poorly funded defense hired a one- eyed civil engineer with little ballistics training to rebut the state’s evidence. The defense expert was obliterated on cross-examination as he admitted he had trouble operating the microscope.