Living a nightmare for 30 years and having the courage to share his story with the world, Anthony Ray Hinton lived through the dark days, the feared moments and encounters and waited thirty long and hard year to watch the darkness unfold the fog and mist lift and realize and see that The Sun Does Shine.
Telling it in the first person narrative we hear Anthony’s voice as he tells about his friendship with Lester, his family and his allegiance and love for his mother. When working hard he wants a car and the end result leads him down the wrong path.
Start from the beginning where we hear the prosecutor’s voice and the judge ‘s sentence. We hear his mother’s hopeful words and we get to know Anthony when he takes the stand. But first we learn about John Davidson’s murder the assistant manager of a restaurant and then the shooting of the manager of another one both forced inside the restaurants cooler and shot after the robbery: Thomas Wayne Vason victim number 2 and Sidney Smotherman the third the assistant manager of Quincy’s Steak House who survived his injuries but identified Hinton as the shooter.
Hinton had no idea why he was arrested and even passes the polygraph test but no one cared. Meeting with a cop and questioned it was clear he had no chance. Telling him there were five reasons he’d lose: one he’s black, two a white man going to say you shot him, three white district attorney, four white judge and a white jury. Even the four appointed Lawyer seemed unsure about his guilt or innocence.
Racism, prejudice and they had their suspect so why look further and his road to freedom closed with a bang,
Even his lawyer did not seem to care and even though he was getting a nominal fee you were there to defend this man.
As the reader gets to know Anthony in depth you realize that his conviction was a total fabrication created and orchestrated by either the police or a powerful prosecutor.
The gun they say used in the murders hadn’t been fired for over 25 years and belonged to his mother so who put the bullets in it? The testimony of Reginald White a supposedly good friend was a web of well constructed lies made to have the court believe that Anthony was the killer when in reality he had just started a new job in a place with a guard and no way to escape or leave. He even told his lawyer to drive the distance from work to Quincy’s restaurant and realize the impossibilities. But, his lawyer was incompetent and did not refute anything said and a huge miscarriage of justice followed yet this man never list faith, prayed for each member present in the courtroom and thought to himself that he’d be better acting as his own lawyer who knows how that might have played out.
A ballistics expert confirmed that the bullets were not from his gun and did not match and a prosecutor that took it all down and away. The jury that finds him guilty in two hours and lies, betrayals and deceptions and his fate sealed. No one heard the truth and no one cared except him, his mother and Lester. Death sentence no chances left but Anthony Hinton would not cower or give up.
Placed on death row and smelling the flesh of those executed would fill his heart, mind and soul for eternity. The vivid description and the fear that he might be next clouded his days. When his lawyer was removed and told him to hire someone at a huge fee his desperation rate was high and his hopes diminished. But miracles happen and someone showed up because Bryan Stevenson would be his guardian angel but it would take years to accomplish the goals.
The guards were rude and could care less about the humanitarian rites of the prisoner and each day Anthony needed strength and hope but at times the tears cane down long and hard.
When Alan Black wanted money Ray fires him and Bryan Stevenson took his case. With the energy, faith and fortitude to move it in a positive direction I’ve never felt so shaken and appalled at the unjustified way the courts treated him. As each prisoner was executed the tears fell from my eyes and each time I heard their final words I prayed for their souls. As Bryan found experts to prove he was innocent and that his mother’s gun did not fire the shots to kill or harm anyone, the judge refused to admit that the state of Alabama did not make a grave error nor would he yield to admit it. Ray was taught not to hate and believe that hating white people or anyone was wrong. His mother didn’t raise a quitter or a hater but how do you hang on and keep your sanity and faith?
The state did not defend that Bryan found worksheets that Higgins and Yates and McGregor had not turned over to Perhacs his first Lawyer. Reading that they did not know what markings were on the bullets, and they certainly didn’t show the bullets from the victims matched the test bullets from his mother’s gun. They didn’t defend any of it. “I don’t think proof of innocence should be disregarded. Who are we if we allow that?” The empty chairs that were left for the 6 members of his book club where these men wanted to read and learn more about literature and then it all went downhill when they were executed yet before the final book is closed Ray definitely made a big difference in the lives of so many and when you read the pages you will understand the compassion, kindness and depth of this amazing man who holds no grudges and just wants to wake up each morning and live his life free.
How does he hang on when it appears they just want him dead? Judge Garrett was retiring but would keep his case and they waited for his ruling on. Rule 32 hearing didn’t seem to be happening as no answer was forthcoming and Bryan Stevenson was more than hopeful and I’ve never heard of anyone more vigilant and dedicated to freeing an innocent man.
The final scenes and the call that changed it all gave Anthony Hinton the freedom he finally deserved. How can a judge hate so vehemently? Why would he write such lies and untruths? Hearing how he lives and telling his story to the world and his friendship with Lester you know Anthony you might have spent those dark 30 years on death row but the sun might not have shined on you directly with its radiant reheat rays but it was there every time Lester, your mom and a Bryan entered your prison letting you know never to give up on you or them. How can he be so understanding and forgive those who wrongly accused him? Fighting to eliminate the death and praying for those who will meet there’s too soon. There are so many lessons to be learned but one that stands out so true racism hate prejudice is wrong and teaching it breeds what happened to this innocent man. When admitting your wrong causes a man 30 years of his life we all need to look in the mirror and ask why?
The world is blessed to have you in it and from now on wherever you are and whoever you’re with the light will glow and you will know that the sun does shine on you now and forever. I am honored to help tell your story.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ network