reflecting on his journey from death row to life as a free man.
Anthony Ray Hinton: I was cuttin’ grass. I just happen to look up and there’s two white gentleman standing there. And I said, “Can I help you?” And they said, “Yes, we’re looking for Anthony Ray Hinton.” And they identified themselves as detectives. And they said, “We have a warrant for your arrest.” And I said, “For what?” He said, “We charging you with first degree attempted murder, first degree robbery, and first degree kidnapping.” I said, “Well, you got the wrong person. I ain’t done none of that!” And he continued to look at me and he said, “You know, I don’t care whether you did it or didn't do it. But I’mma make sure you’ll be found guilty of it. And there’s five things that’s going to convict you.” He said, “Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man is gonna say you shot him. Whether you shot him or not, I don’t care.” He said, “Number three, you gonna have a white prosecutor. Number four, you gonna have a white judge. And number five, more than likely you gonna have an all white jury.” And he continued to look at me. And he said, “You know what that spell? Conviction, conviction, conviction, conviction, conviction.”
And sure enough, they found me guilty. And so, I went to death row for 30 years.
I never did pray, God, please, free me! I thought that was selfish. But, I didn’t want the world to believe that my mom had raised a son that was capable of taking another human being’s life. And so I asked God to let the truth come out. I knew if the truth would come out, then I would come out. And that’s what happened.
So, when Mr. Stevenson came aboard, I said I need you to hire a ballistics expert. Because they convicted me off ballistics, saying that the bullets that they retrieved from the victim's body matched the gun that they got from my mother’s house. And all three of them came to the same conclusion that the bullets didn’t match.
And so, with this, we go before the attorney general, and we ask him to reexamine the bullets. He refused to just take one hour and reexamine the bullets. I sat on death row an extra 16 years all because my life was not worth re-examining the bullets for one hour.
Years later, the Supreme Court did something they’ve never done in the history of the courts, they ruled in my favor. All nine justices. And I’ve been out a year and a half, and no one have had the decency to say I’m sorry.
Just like it was back in the lynching days. Two men came and got me, falsely accused me. It was a white mob that prosecuted me, a white judge that sentenced me, a white jury that convicted me. And so, what changed? They brought it inside and created another way of execution. Went from the tree, to the electric chair, from the electric chair to the gurney. When they come get you they at least try to take you to jail, and then in some places, they kill you right there on the spot. Say you had a gun, say you went reaching for a gun. They took off the white robe, and put on the black robe. At the end of the journey, they still putting you to death.
I lost not just 30 years, I lost the years with my mom who passed September the 22nd, 2002. When I came home, this house here was infested with mold. Some people thought they should just bulldoze it. But this is where I was when I was arrested, this is the home that my mom loved so much. And out of respect for my mom and out of love for my mom, I said it could be fixed. And I am proud that when I open that door, regardless of who is on the other side, that I can say welcome to my home. It’s not much, but it’s mine. You are welcome here.