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Wrongfully convicted Anthony Ray Hinton talks criminal justice reform in Wilmington

Anthony Ray Hinton spent nearly thirty years on death row in Alabama before his conviction was overturned. 

He appeared in Wilmington Wednesday to discuss criminal justice reform. 

Hinton told a crowd at the Wilmington Public Library Wednesday that he spent roughly thirty years in “hell” after being wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murders of two fast-food workers.  

“Race and class had everything to do with me spending thirty years in a five-by cell,” he said. 

Hinton discussed criminal justice reform with a panel of local leaders— including Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, State Senator Darius Brown, Wilmington City Council President Hanifa Shabazz and Philadelphia-based attorney Emeka Igwe, who got a Wilmington man’s rape conviction overturned after he was wrongfully imprisoned for 39 years. 

Inadequate defense played a key role in Hinton’s wrongful conviction. Jennings emphasized the need for more funding for public defenders. 

“Defense counsel are critical parts of the criminal justice system,” she said. “If their caseloads are so heavy and they’re so overburdened that they can’t do their job properly, then mistakes are going to be made.”

Panelists also talked about the need for law enforcement and prosecutors to be held accountable. 

Igwe said those who are exonerated often leave prison with no resources. He advocates for compensating people who are wrongly convicted. 

“Delaware is one of 11 states in this country that has no compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted. We had the bill, we helped sponsor the bill,” he said. “It wasn’t brought to the floor for a vote. So what I want everyone in this room to do is contact the Speaker of the House, and say please in the January session, bring this bill to the house for a vote.”

Sen. Brown said Wednesday that HB 196 will be re-introduced to the General Assembly during the next legislative session in January. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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