Anthony Ray Hinton walked out of prison a free man Friday after nearly 30 years on Alabama’s death row. He stepped into the sunshine, praised God and thanked his lawyers, according to CNN.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro on Thursday dismissed the case against the 58-year-old man. One day earlier, prosecutors told the judge that they couldn’t link the bullets from the crime scene to Hinton, who always asserted his innocence in the 1985 murders of two men.
“All they had to do was to test the gun,” Hinton exclaimed to reporters, “but when you think you’re high and mighty and you’re above the law, you don’t have to answer to nobody.”
Hinton’s attorneys had long said that their client was another wrongfully convicted black man who faced a death sentence.
“Race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice,” said Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Rights Initiative and Hinton’s lead attorney, according to CNN. “I can’t think of a case that more urgently dramatizes the need for reform than what has happened to Anthony Ray Hinton.”
Prosecutors won a conviction even though there were no eyewitnesses, fingerprints or other physical evidence linking Hinton to the murder of two restaurant workers during a robbery.
Bullets at the crime scene had questionable links to a gun found in Hinton’s home. But tests raised doubts about whether the bullets were fired from that gun and, in fact, whether they were all fired from the same weapon.
On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hinton’s favor, and he was granted a new trial. But the prosecutors struggled to put evidence together to win a conviction in the retrial. Consequently, they filed a motion to drop the charges.