Anthony Ray Hinton
Anthony Ray Hinton (born 1957) is an Alabama man who was held on death row for nearly 30 years after being convicted of the murders of two restaurant managers, John Davidson and Thomas Wayne Vasona, in Birmingham, Alabama on February 25 and July 2, 1985. He was released in 2015 after winning a new trial.
In February and July 1985, two fast food workers were killed in separate incidents during armed robberies. A survivor of a third restaurant robbery picked Hinton's photo out of a lineup, and the police investigated him. Their only evidence at trial was a statement that ballistics tests showed crime scene bullets matched his mother's gun; there were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony. Hinton was convicted of the two murders and sentenced to death.
Hinton's appeals were handled by the Equal Justice Initiative, which worked on his case for 16 years. Their analysis during appeals showed that the bullets did not match Hinton's mother's gun, but they were unable to persuade the state of Alabama to grant a new trial.
In an appeal that reached the US Supreme Court, in 2014 the Court ruled that Hinton's original defense lawyer was "constitutionally deficient" and his case should be retried. Hinton's defense lawyer had wrongly thought he had only $1,000 available to hire a ballistics expert to rebut the state’s case on evidence. The only expert willing to testify at that price was a one-eyed civil engineer with little ballistics training, who admitted he had trouble operating the microscope.
The Jefferson County district attorney’s office on April 1, 2015 moved to drop the case after their forensics experts were unable to match crime-scene bullets to Hinton's gun. Prosecutors admitted they could not match bullets found at the crime scene with Hinton's gun (this was the only evidence in the original trial).
On April 3, 2015, Hinton was released from the prison after Laura Petro, Jefferson County Circuit judge, overturned his conviction and the state dropped all charges against him.
Hinton was represented by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit based in Montgomery, Alabama. Its executive director and founder is attorney Bryan Stevenson. Hinton is the 152nd person exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973 and the sixth in the state of Alabama.