Anthony Ray Hinton spent nearly 30 years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit. When he was exonerated and released in April 2015, he found the world had changed dramatically. The Internet, cell phones, and other new technology required a whole new way of living and thinking for which 30 years of solitary confinement and isolation left him unprepared. On 60 Minutes, Mr. Hinton shared the story of how he has dealt with these challenges.
Correspondent Scott Pelley asked Mr. Hinton if he was angry after the State of Alabama took three decades of his life. Mr. Hinton said he is not angry. “They took 30 years of my life, as you said. What joy I have I cannot afford to give that to them.” Being angry, he said, would be “letting them win.” Mr. Hinton explained, “I am a person that loves to laugh. I love to see other people smile. And how can I smile when I’m full of hate? And so the 30 years that they got from me, I count today — I count every day — as a joy.”
EJI director Bryan Stevenson represented Mr. Hinton for 16 years, and said we owe it to exonerated prisoners to take responsibility for our justice system. “This has everything to do with the way we treat those who are vulnerable in our criminal justice system,” he said.
“You can’t traumatize someone, try to kill someone, condemn someone, lock someone down for 30 years and not feel some responsibility for what you’ve done,” Stevenson told 60 Minutes. People who are exonerated and released from prison “need support, they need economic support, they need housing support, they need medical support, they need mental health care. They need to know that their victimization, their abuse has been taken seriously.”
More than that, Stevenson said, we owe exonerated people a better system of justice. “We owe them an obligation to fix the problems that created the wrongful conviction of Mr. Hinton. We owe them an investigation into what went wrong,” he said. “By failing to take seriously the needs of innocent people who are exonerated, we’re saying we don’t care if we get it wrong, we don’t care if we execute innocent people. And I think that’s a terrible thing for a society that claims to be about justice and fairness.”