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Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

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Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.
After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27…

Missouri Senate committee votes to abolish death penalty

Missouri Capitol
A coalition of Republicans and Democrats voted Tuesday to send a bill repealing Missouri's death penalty to the state Senate for debate.

The measure passed the Senate General Laws and Pensions Committee on a 4-3 vote with support from 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats. The measure will head to the full Senate, which has not debated a bill to repeal the death penalty in decades.

"The death penalty isn't going to change without discussion," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial. "It's important we keep discussion open and allow everyone to share their opinions in order to make a change."

The bill also had the support of the committee's chairman, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

Also voting for the measure were the committee's 2 Democrats, Sen. Joe Keaveny of St. Louis and Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur. The other 3 Republicans on the committee - Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Maryville, Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, and Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan - voted against repealing the death penalty.

Before the vote, the committee heard from Joshua Kezer, who served 16 years in a state prison after being wrongly convicted of the 1992 murder of a Southeast Missouri State University nursing student in Scott County.

Kezer was sentenced to prison for 1st-degree murder, but Kezer's DNA was submitted to the FBI and was found to not be a match. Kezer was released from prison in 2009.

"I'm the last one to advocate for the life of a serial killer, woman killer, or child killer," Kezer said. "But when we are talking about the death penalty we aren't just talking about serial killers, men killers, or race killers. We are just talking about killers. Unfortunately we are also talking about innocent men and women. And because we are talking about that, even though it might be a small percentage, we have to address the death penalty."

Witnesses from the Missouri Sheriff's Association and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association both said they were against the bill.

There are currently 46 prisoners awaiting execution on death row in Missouri. The state executed 16 people in 2014 and 2015, more than a 1/4 of all executions nationwide in that period. The state has put 86 people to death since 1989, when executions resumed after a 24-year hiatus.

The last time the Senate debated whether Missouri should have the death penalty was in April 1974. If the bill passes, Missouri will join Illinois, New York, Iowa, and 17 other states that that do not have a death penalty.

Wieland acknowledged his bill still has a long way to go to win passage in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, January 28 2016

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