Death row survivor speaks on campus


Noah Harkness

Anthony Ray Hinton shared his story with a captivated audience in Hubbell Hall on March 28.

by Noah Harkness, Staff Reporter

Death row exoneree Anthony Ray Hinton captivated a crowded Hubbell Hall on Tuesday night, sharing how positivity and perspective led him through an unthinkable experience.

Hinton spent nearly 30 years on death row in Alabama after being wrongfully convicted of two murders in 1985. He was approached and arrested outside his home by officers who refused to inform him of the reason for his arrest. Hinton said the officers initially refused his request to go inside and inform his mom of his arrest.

“I go in and show my mother the handcuffs, and like any good mother, she began to scream and holler. The detective took me outside while the other stayed and talked to my mother.”

Hinton was questioned about a gun the family owned on his way to the police station. His mother relinquished the firearm on the condition of returning it following the investigation. He continued to ask for the reason for his arrest to no response.

“Detective, why am I being arrested?” Hinton asked. “I said it a little louder and a little angrier than I should have. It seemed to set the detective off that the question wasn’t dropping.”

Hinton was informed he would be charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree attempted murder. The officers told him they were going to ensure he was found guilty regardless of his involvement because of his race. 

The charges then shifted from those listed above to two counts of first-degree murder. Hinton was appointed a lawyer by the court and informed the lawyer of his innocence. He said that despite his innocence, the lawyer had no belief in his case.

“The lawyer said the problem is that all y’all are always doing something, and the moment you get caught, you say you didn’t do it. This is the lawyer that I had believed was going to represent me to the best of his ability.”

Hinton maintained his innocence despite being told he was wrong and nobody believed him. He was later found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Hinton did not speak to a single person in the three years that followed his conviction.

It was after these three years that Hinton began to have a different outlook on life. It began one night after he was awoken by a man crying. Hinton said he had lived by the man for three years and never interacted with him until that night.

“I walked to the bars and said, “Sir, do you need me to get the officer back here?” It took this man a while to reply, but finally, he said, ‘No, I just got word my mother passed.’ My heart just ached for this man.”

From that day on, Hinton began to live his life with purpose despite all he encountered. He lived each day like it was his last, as his mother and faith had taught him. Faith would come full circle for Hinton despite him not even knowing it.

In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court overruled lower court rulings, and Hinton was awarded a new trial. The trial finally confirmed that the bullets of the murders did not match those of Hinton’s gun. On April 3, 2015, Hinton was released from prison following the state dropping all charges.

Hinton has become an advocate for social justice reform since his release. He has given speeches and shared his story in his book The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.

It was an honor to hear Mr. Hinton share his story. He truly inspired all in attendance at Hubbell Hall.