Hinton Indicts the Justice System

News  /  by Linda Li '19  /  October 06, 2017

Courtesy of The Lawrenceville School

During this past Thursday’s school meeting, Anthony Ray Hinton, a wrongly-convicted former death row inmate, delivered a speech and shared his story of injustice with the Lawrenceville community. History Master Orelia Johnson invited Hinton to speak to the School as a means of continuing the conversation about the school-wide summer reading book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.

Hinton’s story begins in July 1985, when he was arrested for robbery, kidnapping, and first-degree attempted murder. Soon after, he was vindicated of these charges and instead was arrested for two counts of first-degree murder.

In his speech, Hinton recounted the words of the detective on his case: “He looked at me and said, ‘Let me tell you something. I don’t care whether you did or didn’t do it, but I’m going to make sure that they find you guilty.’”

He recalled, “There [are] five things that are going to convict you [...] Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man is going to say you shot him whether you shot him or not […] Number three, you’re going to have a white prosecutor. Number four, you’re going to have a white judge, and number five, […] you’re going to have an all white jury.”

As the detective said he would be, Hinton was wrongly convicted and placed on death row under the assumption that he used his mother’s revolver as the murder weapon. Eventually, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) took up his case, and its attorneys soon found ballistic experts who determined that the bullets shot at the crime scene did match Hinton’s mother’s gun. However, state officials remained unwilling to re-examine the case, and it was only later the EJI brought the case to the Supreme Court that a new trial was ordered. Hinton was vindicated after 30 years in prison.

Toward the conclusion of his speech, he challenged students to sit in their bathrooms with nothing else for 30 minutes. He then asked students to imagine living in the confined area for 30 years.

“You think about it, but you can’t ever really know the suffering he went through,” Brittany Sun ’19 said.

“It kind of just makes you appreciate the life you live,” Sydney Bechtel ’19 added.

“The saddest part was when he asked, ‘Is there any justice for me?’ I just couldn’t think of an answer, and I don’t think anyone else could,” Angela Dong ’20 said.

“School meeting was sobering in the best way. Listening to Anthony Ray Hinton’s story brought to light one instance of racial injustice in this country,” Alex Small ’18 said. “Having his physical presence on stage was harrowing. I would have only liked a debrief following it, given the emotional gravity of the topic.”