Anthony Ray Hinton was poor and black when he was convicted of two murders he hadn’t committed. For the next three decades he was trapped in solitary confinement in a tiny cell on death row.
Eventually his case was taken up by the award-winning lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who managed to have him exonerated, though it took 15 years for this to happen. How did Hinton cope with the mental and emotional torture of his situation, and emerge full of compassion and forgiveness? This is a story of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
Title: The Sun Does Shine | Author: Anthony Ray Hinton | Publisher: St Martin’s Press | Pages: 272 | ISBN: 9781250124715 | Publication date: 27th March 2018 | Source: Self-purchased
It might sound cheesy to say it, but ‘The Sun Does Shine’ really does feel like a life changing book. Written but Anthony Ray Hinton, a black American from Alabama who was falsely convicted of murder and spent over a quarter of a century on death row, it’s an incredibly moving, wise and insightful work.
Ray, as he is known, was arrested for the robbery of a restaurant and the attempted murder of its manager. This crime took place when he was working as a cleaner in a locked warehouse miles from the restaurant. Prosecutors then also tied him to two similar robbery homicides and he was convicted on flimsy forensic evidence. Ray protested his innocence throughout, and was fortunate enough to eventually meet a crusading lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who took up his case.
It’s clear from the start that race played a huge part in Ray’s conviction, as did economics. It seems unlikely that a wealthier white man, with access to a decent legal defence, would ever have been sent to prison. The amazing thing is the forgiveness that Ray shows to those responsible for robbing him of so many years of his life. His compassion really is inspirational.
This is a wonderful and very moving book. Heartbreakingly honest in its reporting of the conditions death row inmates face and the psychological toll the constant threat of state sanctioned murder takes on innocent and guilty convicts alike. Ray is under no illusion that many of the men he was incarcerated with were responsible for monstrous crimes, but writes passionately about the fact that their crimes don’t mean they aren’t human beings.
Some of the legal detail of his appeal can be difficult to follow at times, but the underlying message is clear. This is a book about the importance of compassionate justice and the need to address the appalling racial and economic inequalities that persist in the US. Ray’s hope and love for his fellow man shine through like a beacon. It’s also, at times, beautifully written, with clear, thoughtful prose that is packed with emotion.
Crime fiction so often focuses on the pursuit of the guilty and tends to ignore the impact of miscarriages of justice on the innocent. Reading an alternative view such as this was fascinating. I can’t recommend it highly enough.