An Alabama man who has been imprisoned for nearly 30 years was set free this week after prosecutors no longer believed they could convict him in a retrial that was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The evidence used to convict Anthony Ray Hinton (58) almost exclusively consisted of ballistic evidence obtained from a handgun seized from his residence. However, subsequent expert testimony established that the ballistic evidence was defective. Jefferson County prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case after they determined that “three experts found they could not conclusively determine that any of the six bullets” were fired from the gun found in Hinton’s home. He had been previously convicted of two murders in 1985 and sentenced to death. Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which represents Hinton, said he was “thrilled” to see the case resolved this way.
Hinton had been arrested in 1985 and charged with two murders in connection with burglaries that had occurred at separate fast food restaurants near Birmingham, Alabama. Although he had an alibi for one of the murders, and there were no eye witnesses or fingerprint evidence linking him to the scene of the crime, the state was able to secure a conviction through ballistic evidence. The trial lawyer, who was later deemed to be ineffective, was largely ignorant of funding policies for indigent defendants, and thought he was limited to $500.00 for a ballistic expert; he managed to obtain the services of a visually impaired civil engineer with some military artillery experience pro bono (The lawyer seemed to recognize that his “expert” was not qualified but didn’t realize he had the means to obtain more funding for an expert).
COMMENT: This is another excellent result obtained by a team of lawyers who often work for minimum wages (if any at all) to serve their clients and better the criminal justice system.