One of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates will go free on Friday after prosecutors acknowledged that there's not enough evidence linking him to the 1985 murders for which he already has served nearly three decades.
The Associated Press reports: "Jefferson County Circuit Judge Laura Petro on Thursday dismissed the case against Anthony Ray Hinton. The district attorney's office told the judge Wednesday that their forensic experts couldn't determine if six crime scene bullets — which were the crux of the evidence against Hinton at an expected retrial — came from a gun investigators took from his home."
Hinton, now 57, was arrested in 1985 in the killings of two men in separate hold-ups of fast-food restaurants in the Birmingham area after his mother's .38-caliber revolver was linked to the crime.
Attorneys from the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who it deems have been denied fair treatment, "engaged three of the nation's top firearms examiners who testified in 2002 that the revolver could not be matched to crime evidence. State prosecutors never questioned the new findings but nonetheless refused to re-examine the case or concede error."
Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that Hinton had "constitutionally deficient" representation at his initial trial.
The AP says "Hinton's defense lawyer wrongly thought he had only $1,000 to hire a ballistics expert to try to rebut the prosecution evidence, according to the court opinion. Hinton's lawyer hired the only person willing to take the job at that price, even though he had concerns about the expert's credentials."
EJI says the prosecutor in the original case had a "documented history of racial bias" and that a polygraph test given by police that appeared to exonerate Hinton was deemed inadmissible by the trial judge.
Reuters says Hinton is expected to be freed from a jail in Jefferson County at 9:30 a.m. CDT on Friday.