Anthony Ray Hinton’s wrongful conviction and death sentence for murder in Alabama is as shocking as it is revealing. Soon after Hinton’s arrest a police officer told him:
“You know, I don’t care whether you did or didn’t do it. In fact, I believe you didn’t do it. But it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t do it, one of your brothers did. And you’re going to take the rap… I can give you five reasons why they are going to convict you…
Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man gonna say you shot him. Number three, you’re gonna have a white district attorney. Number four, you’re gonna have a white judge. And number five, you’re gonna have an all-white jury.
You know what that spell?
Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction.”*
The police officer’s racist prediction turned out to be correct: despite having a watertight alibi for the crime for which he was arrested, Hinton was landed on death row by a lying witness, mistaken witness identification and false ballistics evidence. Charges against him were finally dropped in 2015, shortly before charges were dropped in one of Willie Manning’s cases.
The racism in Hinton’s case would not have surprised Willie: racism also underpinned his convictions in Mississippi. In his concluded case a white prosecutor and two white law enforcement officers coerced the key witness to testify against Willie. In his ongoing case a white judge allowed the same white prosecutor to strike African American jurors from his trial; the prosecutor also unfairly denigrated Willie publicly.
Hinton is an inspirational man who has sent Willie a message: “Never give up hope”. We echo that message. We hope that it is not long before Willie, like Hinton, can finally establish his innocence.