How i got 30 years on death row for someone else’s crime us news the guardian types of electricity pdf


My only crime was being born black, or being born black in Alabama. Everywhere I looked in this courtroom, I saw white faces – a sea of white faces. Wood walls, wood furniture and white faces. The courtroom was impressive and intimidating. I felt like an uninvited guest in a rich man’s library. .

It’s hard to explain exactly what it feels like to be judged. There’s a shame to it. Even when you know you’re innocent. It still feels like you are coated in something dirty and evil. It made me feel guilty. It made me feel like my very soul was put on trial and found lacking.

I had been all over the Birmingham newspapers from the time of my arrest and then throughout the trial. The press had judged me guilty from the second I had stepped out of my mama’s yard. So had the police detectives and the experts and the prosecutor – a sorry-looking man with a weak chin, saggy jowls and a pallor that made it look like he had never worked a day outside in his life.

Now, if I had to judge anyone as evil in that courtroom, it would have been prosecutor McGregor. There was a meanness that came out of his small, close-set eyes – a hatred that was hard and edgy and brittle. He looked like he could snap at any moment. Like some sort of rabid weasel. If he could have executed me right then and there, he would have done so and then gone about having his lunch without further thought.

And then there was Judge Garrett. He was a large man; even in his loose black robe, he looked overstuffed and uncomfortable. He had a ruddy color to his cheeks. He preened and puffed and made a big show out of everything, but it was all a farce.

Oh, sure, they all went through the motions. For almost two weeks, they paraded out witnesses and experts and walked us through the chain of custody and exhibits A to Z, all of which I guess gave legitimacy to what was already a foregone conclusion.

I may not have had any money, but I had enough education to understand exactly how justice was working in this trial and exactly how it was going to turn out. The good old boys had traded in their white robes for black robes, but it was still a lynching.

I had spent almost two years waiting for my trial – purposefully not talking to anyone about anything to do with my case – and now supposedly in the hallway outside the courtroom, I had confessed to a bailiff that I had cheated to pass my polygraph, a polygraph the state wouldn’t allow to be admitted because it had proven that I was innocent? It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.

My wrists were shackled and cuffed together, a heavy chain linking them to the leg irons around my ankles. For a moment, I imagined wrapping that chain around all their necks, but then I unclenched my fists and placed the palms of my hands together as if to pray.

I wasn’t a murderer. Never had been, never would be. I looked over at the jury, at McGregor, who stared back at me with hatred and self-righteousness, at the judge, who looked overheated and bored. I had spent a good many years testifying for God in church, and now it was time to testify for myself in this courtroom.

“Judge,” my attorney began, “let me make aware to the court that Mr Hinton has requested the opportunity to testify. I have no particular idea of the subject matter of testimony, so there’s no way of questioning him. I don’t see how it could make any difference if he just testifies.”

He didn’t know the subject matter? The subject matter was this court just convicted me of two cold-blooded murders without any evidence. The subject matter is my attorney just let them find me guilty of two capital offenses based on a third attempted murder that happened while I was at work. The subject matter was my attorney hired a ballistics expert who could hardly see and who was crucified on the stand. The subject matter was the state of Alabama wanted to strap me to Yellow Mama and murder me for crimes I didn’t commit.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and said the same prayer I had prayed in my head a thousand times. Dear God, let them know the truth of things. Let them see into my mind and my heart and the truth. Bless the judge. Bless the DA. Bless the victims’ families who are in pain. Dear God, let there be justice. Real justice. divider

It was time for the judge to sentence me. This was my fate from the second they arrested me. Someday they would know I didn’t do it. And then what? What do you say to a man when you find out he didn’t do it? What would they all say then? I sat up as straight as I could. I wasn’t going to beg for my life.

It was a brief recess. Just three hours until they were bringing me back into that courtroom of rich wood and white faces for the last time. I listened as my attorney made one last attempt to object to them trying me for two capital offenses that were only related to each other by circumstance and not related to me by any evidence whatsoever. Somehow, the state of Alabama was able to consolidate the cases, relate them to a third and put the death penalty on the table. This was the real capital offense.

“It is the judgment of the court that the defendant, Anthony Ray Hinton, in each of these cases is guilty of the capital offense in accordance with the verdict of the jury in each of these cases. And it is the judgment of the court and the sentence of the court that the defendant, Anthony Ray Hinton, suffer death by electrocution on a date to be set by the Alabama supreme court pursuant to Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure 8-D (1).

“The sheriff of Jefferson County, Alabama, is directed to deliver the defendant, the said Anthony Ray Hinton, into the custody of the director of the department of corrections and institutions at Montgomery, Alabama, and the designated electrocution shall, at the proper place for the electrocution of one sentenced to suffer death by electrocution, cause a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death and the application and continuance of such current to pass through the body of said Anthony Ray Hinton until the said Anthony Ray Hinton is dead.”

The bailiffs were leading me toward the door that led out the back of the courtroom, but I turned and started to walk toward my mom. One of the bailiffs grabbed my arm below the shoulder, and I could feel each of his fingers digging in hard. There was no going to her. There was no way for me to comfort her.