Genre: nonfiction memoir
Length: 272 pages
Setting: mostly Death Row in Alabama
Summary: Short version: One man’s experience as an innocent man on Alabama’s Death Row
Long version: Ray was a poor black man growing up in Alabama, which automatically made a large part of the white population hate him. In 1986, he was accused of killing several people, even though the most recent death occurred while he was working in a locked facility. A gun was found in his mother’s house and used as evidence, even though it hadn’t been fired in years. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the prosecutors decided Ray was guilty. Ray’s public defender didn’t have the money or the drive to prove his innocence. Ray was sentenced to death. He spent over 30 years on Death Row trying to prove his innocence to the courts. In that time, he was supported by his friend, Lester, who visited every week without fail. Eventually, Ray hired Bryan Stevenson, an attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson was able to convince the Supreme Court to reopen Hinton’s case. Ultimately, Hinton was set free.
Final thoughts: This was a book club choice that I wasn’t involved in (I missed that meeting) and I was dreading reading the book. I thought it would be depressing and boring and just make me feel bad about our prison system. While it was a bit depressing at time, in no way was it boring. Because it was written from Ray’s point of view, I was pulled right into his story. The book turned out to be more of a story and less of a screed against the death penalty. Hinton is very much against the death penalty. He thinks it’s immoral to kill people, especially when there’s a good chance they are innocent. If there was a device on the market that killed one in ten people, it would be removed so fast (although I have to wonder about cigarettes). But, one in ten people killed on Death Row are innocent. I can see why the Governor of California recently placed a moratorium on carrying out executions. I tend to approach the idea from a scientific viewpoint. This book takes you right in there so you see the situation from a personal point of view. It’s horrible to everyone involved – the prisoners, the guards, the family members. And by no means is it fairly applied. That being said, Hinton writes from a place of hope. There are always choices to make things better or worse.
Title comes from: A quote from the book
Reading challenges fulfilled: an H in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge, and book #25 for 2019
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