‘I went to death row for 28 years through no fault of my own’

Barbed Wire Prisonsource: The Guardian
published: 5 April 2018

Anthony Ray Hinton was going out of his mind on Alabama’s death row as he repeatedly churned over the iniquities of the shambolic trial that put him there. So he started a book club.

The prison warden wasn’t keen but after Hinton told him that it was better to have inmates applying their minds to reading than to ways of causing disruption, he reluctantly agreed. The book club began with a handful of death row prisoners meeting in the jail’s law library, and for a few years the numbers grew as word spread that reading was as good an escape as any of them could expect.

But then the numbers shrank again as each of the members was executed until only Hinton remained of the original group. His cell was so close to the electric chair he could smell the burning flesh of the men he’d been debating the writings of James Baldwin and Harper Lee with.

All the while, Hinton awaited his own appointment with “Yellow Mama”, the generator that powered the electric chair, as one attempt after another to have the overwhelming evidence of his innocence heard got nowhere.

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