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Death Row Exoneree to Speak at Mount St. Mary’s University

Rosie Bolen, Ph.D.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training & Development

scales of justice and gavel

Mount St. Mary’s University will host Anthony Ray Hinton as the keynote speaker for Black History Month on February 8 at 6:30 p.m. in Knott Auditorium. Hinton, author of The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice, spent 30 years on death row in Alabama for a crime he did not commit. Bryan Stevenson and the team at the Equal Justice Initiative took on Hinton’s case and won his freedom in 2015. Since his release, Hinton has traveled the world sharing his story and discussing possible changes to prevent similar injustices from happening to other people.

ray-hinton-in-text.jpgThis event, co-sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network, is free and open to the public. For more information and to register to attend, please visit www.msmary.edu/hinton. If you need accommodations to attend this event, please email dei@msmary.edu.

In 1985, Hinton was convicted of murdering two fast-food restaurant managers, based on the testimony of ballistics experts from the State of Alabama who claimed that the crime scene bullets matched a dusty gun found in his mother’s closet that hadn’t been fired in years. Hinton’s public defender hired a ballistics expert who was legally blind in one eye and who had no previous experience with the equipment used to compare the bullets.

Hinton also had an alibi for the murders (he was doing temp work, locked in a warehouse), and an eyewitness claiming Hinton was near the crime scene had a personal grudge against him. An all-white jury convicted Hinton and sentenced him to death. After years of petitioning to have the ballistics re-examined, three independent experts concluded that the crime scene bullets could not have been fired from his mother’s gun. Stevenson argued Hinton’s case in many venues, including the Supreme Court of the United States, until the prosecutor’s office dropped the charges in 2015.

Hinton’s book, published in 2018, was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and was a New York Times bestseller. It tells the story of his journey to freedom, including how his faith guided him during his incarceration and how he worked to build community among the death-row inmates.

The Mount has a full month of activities planned to celebrate the impact of the achievements and cultures of Black people on the university, state and nation, including a spirit week hosted by the Black Student Union during the week of February 5 to 9. On February 9, Alanna “Neptune XXI” Dixon, C’15, will present “Neptune XXI: The Love Experience,” a night to celebrate love through music and poetry. Dixon is a performance artist who has gained recognition as an innovative wordsmith and as someone who is committed to community engagement. Her previous events at the Mount have received high praise.

In addition, the Step Afrika! Dance company will perform on February 18, and Black History Month will be the topic of the February 22 trivia night. Also on February 22, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Love Sechrest, Ph.D., will speak about “Sex, Crime and Stereotypes in the Gospel of John” in Laughlin Auditorium.

Rosie Bolen, Ph.D.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training & Development