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Death Row

Anthony Ray Hinton spent 30 years on death row, the whole time proclaiming his innocence. The evidence used to convict Hinton of two murders was always poor. There were no eyewitnesses, no fingerprints, no physical evidence at all other than a supposed link between a set of bullets and a gun owned by Hinton’s mother. Hinton passed a polygraph test, but that was never admitted as evidence.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he hadn’t received a fair trial and ordered a new one. In that trial, experts could not conclusively link the bullets to the weapon. In fact, they couldn’t even say for sure if they were fired by the same gun. With no evidence left, the case was dismissed and Hinton was released.

Unsurprisingly, Anthony Ray Hinton is black.

And he’s not the only innocent black person sent to death row.



  1. PatriotSG wrote:

    I don’t get what you are trying to infer by saying he was unsurprisingly black.

    73 out 152 of innocent death row inmates set free were non-black according to the site below. Does that mean that blacks are more often assisted with their cases or just more often innocent of the charges?

    Black, white, yellow or blue it doesn’t matter, anyone can be unjustly accused and convicted. We should care more about that, then what color their skin is. We are all part of the human race and we are all in this together.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  2. ThatGuy wrote:

    If over half of the list of wrongly convicted people is from a minority that makes up only 15% or so of the entire population, it suggests that blacks are wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than non-blacks.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink
  3. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I’m not a statistician, but I think it have to do more with the number of capital crimes committed by each color group, then the demographic they belong to.

    But I will agree that being able to afford a better attorney has as much or more to do with it then color. If OJ could get off it’s pretty much the same as when a wealthy white person gets off.

    I just think it’s a much more complex issue then thinking if 15% of the population is black then only 15% of death row prisoners should be black and if it’s higher there’s a racial issue. IMO that is far too simplistic and sounds more like a media talking point not based on very much research or fact.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  4. ThatGuy wrote:

    It’s a pretty well known and studied fact that blacks receive harsher sentences than whites committing similar crimes.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    I agree with you PSgt — you’re not a statistician.

    Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 4:30 am | Permalink
  6. ralph wrote:

    In this country, you’re innocent until proven broke.

    Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink
  7. Hassan wrote:

    Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    An ex convict (growing marijuana) plaintively said to me “in prison we had to make no decisions, didn’t have to worry about paying bills, earning money, we had no responsibilities” He had enjoyed his rest in prison.

    Monday, April 6, 2015 at 4:46 am | Permalink
  9. ThatGuy wrote:

    Hassan, thanks for that link. Great (and depressing) read.

    Monday, April 6, 2015 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  10. zyvlyn wrote:

    PSgt, remember that the number you have is the number of people WRONGLY convicted. Meaning, innocent people sent to death row. The stats of which race commits the most crimes doesn’t enter into the equation since these people DIDN’T commit a crime. If over half of those people are black (15% of the population), then that’s a problem. You don’t need to be a statistician to see that.

    I’d also point out that what you’re saying (that it’s not a problem if over half of the people wrongly sentenced to death row are black because most people who commit crimes are black) is the very definition of racial profiling.

    Monday, April 6, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Excellent point Zyvlyn.

    Monday, April 6, 2015 at 11:15 pm | Permalink
  12. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    zyvlyn – I did not say “most people who commit crimes are black.”
    That would be incorrect and very assuming on my part with no conclusive data. Equally, it is very assuming to infer that because 50% of wrongfully convicted death row inmates were black, they had to be victims of racism because they only make up 15% of the general population.

    What are the rest of the factors and data and why do people just accept the media sound-bites without trying to actually think through and analyze on their own.

    My guess, which I stated earlier, is far less about race and more about access to elite legal teams.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  13. ThatGuy wrote:

    People have analyzed the data, and found racial bias. This is why there are studies like the one I linked. You can also look at simpler things, like the discrepancies between minimum sentences for cocaine and crack. The former is primarily used by whites and punished with a shorter term than the latter, primarily used by blacks. Keep in mind, these are minimum mandatory sentences, so you can’t really mitigate these with access to better lawyers. This despite the fact that they’re effectively the same drug. Minority minors are also more likely in many places to be charged as adults than are whites committing the same crimes.

    Finally, even if your hypothesis about access to better legal teams (i.e. cash) being the defining factor is true, you’re still dealing with a broken justice system, and one that would still be disproportionately harsh on blacks.

    Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  14. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I read the article, and also read through the response threads.

    The responders, like me are skeptical of the results, not because we don’t want to hunt out racism, but because all too often data is manipulated to produce the desired result. To the contrary of the “exonerated” data that this thread deals with, what are the stats for a actual death row inmates? Are the ratios the same?

    Here’s what one blogger responding to the link, you posted had to say, so you understand why I am always skeptical:

    Marc said:
    Things are not always so simple.

    Between 1975-2005, blacks committed 53% of all felony murders and 56% manslaughters. Black averaged 12% of the US population during this time period. (Source: US DOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics.)

    If the application of the death penalty was evenly distributed by race, then 53% of the people on death row would by black and 53% of the people executed would be black.

    However, only 41.5% of the inmates on death row are black. This means black murderers are substantially less likely to get the death penalty for murder.

    Of the 46 death row inmates executed in 2010 (out of 3,173), only 13 were black. This means only 28% of the death row inmates executed were black.

    It is accordingly true that Blacks convicted of murder are significantly less likely to be sentenced to death than white murderers. Black inmates on death row are significantly less likely to actually be put to death than white inmates on death row.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 6:00 am | Permalink
  15. ThatGuy wrote:

    You’d still have to confront the question of how many people are convicted of murder, even if not sentenced to die, who are actually innocent. If your contention is that, based on total percentage of convicted murderers, blacks are actually underrepresented on death row, you once again find yourself in a situation where a disproportionate number of innocent black people are awaiting execution. If they are underrepresented on death row, why are they still the majority of exonerated prisoners?

    Through all of this, it’s hard to ignore that people from 12-15% of the total US population make up roughly 40% of its prison population with the simultaneous knowledge that minorities, particularly blacks, face stiffer charges and longer prison sentences than accused/convicted white people. Again I refer you to the differences between the mandatory minimums for crack and cocaine.

    Taken from another angle, murderers of white victims are far more likely to face the death penalty than murderers of black victims. Roughly 80% of death row inmates since 1977 were convicted of killing/victimizing a white person. With murders being mostly intraracial, you’d expect a higher percentage of death row inmates to be white.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink
  16. PatriotSGT wrote:

    THATGUY- I am not definitively saying that there is no racial bias in our justice system. What I am saying is that we need to look deeper and not rely on personal assumptions, or what we think the data should say and then cherry pick results that conform to our narrative.

    For instance, your assumption that “With murders being mostly intraracial, you’d expect a higher percentage of death row inmates to be white”

    Is absolutely wrong. Here is FBI data from 2011

    Clearly, whites kill whites and blacks kill blacks more often. In fact, only 7% of blacks killed were by whites, while 1% of whites were killed by blacks.

    It is these assumptions, because people are trying to push a narrative that distorts the reality. Take the narrative out of the equation and look deeper into the facts. That will give us a deeper understanding of the problem and maybe some smart guy can figure out how to improve it.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  17. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Correction: while 1% of whites
    Should read: while 14% of whites were killed by blacks.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  18. ThatGuy wrote:

    Intraracial. Not interracial. My statement is perfectly compatible with the statistics, it’s based on them.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  19. zyvlyn wrote:

    Wow. Mixing up intraracial vs interracial. His point wouldn’t have even made sense if he said interracial. What was that you said about assumptions?

    Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 5:04 am | Permalink
  20. Iron Knee wrote:

    And it just keeps happening:

    Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 5:11 am | Permalink
  21. ThatGuy wrote:

    Don’t worry, IK, we’ll see the right highlighting Scott’s checkered history with the law and twist it into some sort “not that bad” if not “justified” situation.

    I just can’t get over the irony of the conservatives in this country constantly agitating against the specter of nanny or police states headed by radical leftists while taking every opportunity they can to support actual instances of police brutality and abuse of power. Hell, we’ve even had some elected republicans being really fond of real life police states. Remember all those conservatives pining after the strong leadership of Putin?

    I’m getting away from police-citizen relations here in the US, but the link below is a great read about one Republican rep’s tortured logic in his support of Russia.

    Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink
  22. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Intraracial. Not interracial

    I completely misread that one, apologies THATGUY.

    And IK, on the SC issue that was a completely unjustified shooting. The ex officer should face life to death row. And from what I’ve seen from the cable news types it seems to be they are unanimously in agreement that it was a bad cop in an unjustified shooting.

    Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink