Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

6Apr/150

“They Couldn’t Take My Soul”: Anthony Ray Hinton on His Exoneration After 30 Years on Death Row

Via Democracy Now, April 6, 2015:

Days after being exonerated and freed from an Alabama prison, Anthony Ray Hinton recounts how he got through nearly 30 years on death row as an innocent man. Hinton was convicted of murdering two fast-food managers in separate robberies in 1985, based on scant evidence that later turned out to be false. Hinton is said to be among the longest-serving death row prisoners ever to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence. Hinton joins us along with his attorney, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, who says race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance, and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice. "This is a very powerful demonstration of the critique of the American criminal justice system, which we contend treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent," Stevenson says.

21Oct/140

Bryan Stevenson – One Lawyer’s Fight For Young Blacks And ‘Just Mercy’

Bryan Stevenson discusses his new memoir, Just Mercy, detailing the influences that drove him to a career bringing justice to many that others tend to ignore. This discussion was aired Monday on NPR's Fresh Air (approximately 38 minutes).

When Bryan Stevenson was in his 20s, he lived in Atlanta and practiced law at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee.

One evening, he was parked outside his apartment listening to the radio, when a police SWAT unit approached his car, shined a light inside and pulled a gun.

They yelled, "Move and I'll blow your head off!" according to Stevenson. Stevenson says the officers suspected him of theft and threatened him — because he is black.

The incident fueled Stevenson's drive to challenge racial bias and economic inequities in the U.S. justice system.

"[It] just reinforced what I had known all along, which is that we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent," Stevenson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "The other thing that that incident did for me was just remind me that we have this attitude about people that is sometimes racially shaped — and you can't escape that simply because you go to college and get good grades, or even go to law school and get a law degree."

Stevenson is a Harvard Law School graduate and has argued six cases before the Supreme Court. He won a ruling holding that it is unconstitutional to sentence children to life without parole if they are 17 or younger and have not committed murder.

His new memoir, Just Mercy, describes his early days growing up in a poor and racially segregated settlement in Delaware — and how he came to be a lawyer who represents those who have been abandoned. His clients are people on death row — abused and neglected children who were prosecuted as adults and placed in adult prisons where they were beaten and sexually abused, and mentally disabled people whose illnesses helped land them in prison where their special needs were unmet.

Listen below.  Read more at Fresh Air.

20Jul/140

Attorney-activist Bryan Stevenson & the Movement to End Mass Incarceration – On the Tavis Smiley Show

Bryan Stevenson appeared on the Tavis Smiley show this past week, discussing the continuing - and growing - movement to undo this nation's still-out-of-control prison state. What's most clear is that the current reality is unsustainable. While many of us are clear that this nation's criminal justice policies and practices are largely morally bankrupt, a growing number of legislators at least recognize that these policies make little to no financial sense.

One way or another, we have to keep pushing legislators and other policymakers to more aggressively undo these unjust policies.

The Harvard-trained lawyer, who’s won exonerations for death row inmates, examines the issue of excessive sentencing.  --  Founder and executive director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative—a private, nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners—Bryan Stevenson gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. He's a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government and has argued five times before the U.S. Supreme Court. The recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant, he's on the faculty of New York University School of Law and has written extensively on criminal justice, capital punishment and civil rights issues.

 

1May/140

Bryan Stevenson: Ending the Politics of Fear and Anger

Bryan Stevenson on the fear and anger that drives the insane criminal justice policies in this country, and its impact on the future outlook of many of our children. He challenges all of us to get more involved, and fundamentally reorient ourselves and then these bad policies.

We have a criminal justice system that is incredibly wealth dependent. No matter how innocent you are, no matter how strong your alibi, no matter the fact that you didn't do anything wrong. It doesn't shield you from arrest, prosecution, conviction, and even long-term incarceration. Our system treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent.

Additional interesting discussions follow Bryan Stevenson's immediate remarks.