On December 24, 2023, the Atlanta Falcons honored Anthony Ray Hinton by naming him as their 2023 Inspire Change Changemaker. Each year, teams in the NFL grant this award to individuals “going above and beyond in their pursuit of social justice by helping to transform their communities.” The Atlanta Falcons named Mr. Hinton their 2023 Changemaker because, “since being exonerated, Hinton works tirelessly to ensure what happened to him, doesn’t happen to others.”
Mr. Hinton was released in 2015 after spending 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. In 1985, Mr. Hinton was arrested and charged with two capital murders based solely on the assertion that a revolver taken from his mother’s home was the gun used in both murders and in a third uncharged crime. Three of the nation’s top firearms examiners testified in 2002 that the revolver could not be matched to crime evidence. State prosecutors never questioned the new findings but nonetheless refused to re-examine the case or concede error. Then, after 12 more years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower courts, and a new trial was granted. The judge finally dismissed the charges after prosecutors said that scientists at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences tested the evidence and confirmed that the crime bullets cannot be matched to the Hinton weapon.
Since his release, Mr. Hinton has worked with EJI as a Community Educator, serving as a powerful advocate against the death penalty and speaking nationally about the urgent need for criminal justice reform.