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.
DeAndre Howard spent more than a decade in prison for a murder he knew he didn’t commit. After years of fighting for his innocence from behind bars, a federal judge had finally granted him an appeal. Prosecutors, he said, gave him a choice. He could plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and get out in time for a Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Or he could go back to trial and risk spending the rest of his life in prison.
He chose trial. That felt final. It felt right. “There was no need to compromise your integrity just so you can go free,” he said. “I felt that’s something you have to hold firm to even if your life is on the line.” On Friday, after 11 years behind bars, Howard, 31, walked out of a courtroom in downtown Los Angeles a free man after a jury acquitted him of murder and attempted murder.
Dressed in a black jumpsuit from county jail, he had trouble finding a pay phone. Someone let him borrow a cellphone. He made several calls to relatives who weren’t expecting his release until several days later. A cousin picked him up at a bus stop near the courthouse. “I was looking at all the buildings and breathing the nice cold air,” he said. “This was freedom.”
• Remain under the supervision of the pretrial services program at all times
• Subject to electronic monitoring through the CTC at all times
• Remain on home detention until completion of her case and will be allowed to leave her residence except for court appearances, medical emergencies and to satisfy any requirements of PSP or the CTC
• Report all required court appearances and all required appointments with he PSP or its designated service provider
• Alexander cannot change her residence without prior notice and approval by the PSP or its designated service provider
• Cannot have contact with, nor communicate by any means with Rico Gray, Sr., Pernell Gray and Rico Gray, Jr.
• Alexander shall abide by all court orders in the divorce proceedings involving Rico Gray, Sr., including all orders that pertain to child custody, exchange of child custody for visitation shall be facilitated by a third party
• Alexander shall not possess any firearms, nor shall there be any firearms in her residence at any time during her pretrial release
• Shall not consume any alcoholic beverage or drug not prescribed by a physician
• Must abide by all rules and regulations for the PSP and the CTC including random drug testing
• Alexander shall be subject to warrantless searches of her residence by CTC officers or any JSO officer conducting such a search at the direction of CTC personnel, to ensure compliance with her pretrial release conditions
Alexander’s bond was set at a total of $200,009 for three separate charges. NewsOne contributor, Attorney and Legal Analyst Eric L. Guster, who can frequently be seen sparring with HLN’s Nancy Grace over high-profile cases,said the laundry list of conditions is standard in a case such as Alexander’s:
“Although [the conditions of release] seem extensive, those are typical stipulations for a person in that situation,” Guster said. “Since she has been found guilty once and now may go to trial again, the court has a duty to protect all parties, witnesses and Marissa herself. Therefore, the requirements of her bond are similar to those similarly situated.”
Cook County jurors on Tuesday awarded $1 million to a man who was wrongfully held in jail for more than a year. John Collins, a 42-year-old Chicago barber, was arrested in 2006 and spent 385 days in jail due to false charges of aggravated battery to a police office, officials said. After a three-day trial, a jury found the city of Chicago and Chicago police Officer Michael Garza guilty of malicious prosecution.
“I felt like a right in the pool of wrong,” Collins said of his time in jail. “I didn’t want to swim in that pool no more, but I didn’t want to drown either. So I kept fighting.” When officers pulled Collins over in 2006, he’d just left his salon. One officer accused him of kicking and spitting on them, but a jury acquitted Collins and he was released from Cook County in 2007.
“All I know is that I ended up a victim,” he said. Collins said the trauma and distress is still with him. “I was just devastated,” he said. “I was just devastated.” Collins missed the birth of his now 7-year-old son Elwood while in jail, a moment he said he can never get back. Since his release, Collins has worked continuously in his Dolton salon, and noted the verdict brings him a step closer to having his life back. “I’m thankful that someone’s seen justice,” he said.
A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said they are “disappointed” in the verdict in the case and said they plan to “explore all available options including an appeal.”