Death Row Inmate Exonerated
Anthony Ray Hinton was freed after serving 30 years on Alabama’s death row. He was convicted of the 1985 murders of two restaurant managers—but the conviction was based on shoddy evidence and the pressure to get a culprit behind bars.
“He was convicted because he’s poor,” said Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) who took on Hinton’s case. “We have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent, and his case proves it. We have a system that is compromised by racial bias, and his case proves it.”
Hinton was convicted based on testimony that the bullets from the crime matched those of a gun in his possession. But in 1999, EJI hired firearms examiners who later testified that the bullets could not be traced to Hinton’s gun or any other single gun. Since that time, EJI has petitioned officials to review the case. Finally in 2014, Hinton was granted a new trial.
Through it all, Hinton tried to stay strong. “When you [are] placed on death row, you have to have strong faith,” Hinton said. “[A previous lawyer] told me he was trying to get me life without [parole]. And I told him get that for someone that is guilty; I’m innocent. I need someone that would believe in me and would fight for my life as hard as they could, and that is when Mr. Stevenson came in.”
After decades of waiting, evidence has proved Hinton’s innocence, and he is free. “Well, it feels wonderful,” he said. “A little scared at times, especially when I’ve been out to the mall and I’m not used to being around that many people.”
While his freedom is cause for celebration, Hinton has lost so much that can’t be replaced, but he clings to what can’t be taken away: “They couldn’t take my soul . . . . They couldn’t take the fact that I love to make people laugh.”
How Healthy Is the Christian Book Market?
As with any economic question, the quick answer is: It depends. Christian fiction sales were down 15 percent in 2014, according to Nielsen BookScan. But Christian nonfiction, including Bibles, rose 12 percent last year—and it’s up 53 percent over the last five years.
The robust nonfiction market gives publishers reason for confidence, even in the face of controversy like that surrounding Alex Malarkey and the “heaven tourism” genre. And while fiction looks dire, publishers haven’t given up finding ways to get their books in the hands of increasingly paperless readers.
No matter the numbers, the Christian book market produced many reader favorites in 2014. Topping the fiction list were The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn, The Last Bride by Beverly Lewis, and Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers; while Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo led the nonfiction.
Single Mother Gets New Car from NBA MVP
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook won MVP of the NBA All-Star Game—an award that came with a brand new Kia car.
But Westbrook decided to share the honor he’d received. So with the help of Sunbeam Family Services in Oklahoma City, he gave his new car to Kerstin Gonzales, a single mother of two. Westbrook says he wanted to show his admiration for “all the hard work she’s done to keep her family together.” He is also founder of the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation dedicated to helping children facing adversity.
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).