Last April, Anthony Ray Hinton felt the rain on his face for the first time in 30 years.
Hinton, one of the longest serving death row prisoners in Alabama history and among the longest serving condemned prisoners to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence, is the 152nd person exonerated from death row since 1983.
Thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) based in Montgomery, Ala., Hinton walked out of the Jefferson County Jail a free man for the first time in three decades on April 3.
Hinton and Charlotte Morrison, a senior attorney at the Equal Justice Initiative, will visit St. Bonaventure University Monday, Oct. 26, and present the program “Stories of Justice and Redemption: The Impact of the EJI” at 7 p.m. in Dresser Auditorium of the John J. Murphy Professional Building. The public is invited.
“Mr. Hinton’s experiences put a human face to the issue of mass incarceration. While students can read about the topic, this presentation allows them to hear directly from someone who has been affected – for 30 long years – by the effects of injustice,” said Chris Brown, director of SBU’s First-Year Experience program.
“I hope our students are inspired by Mr. Hinton and the work of the EJI to continue striving for justice in our campus community and in society at large.”
The Equal Justice Initiative provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system and was founded by Bryan Stevenson as a young lawyer.
Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” was named by Time Magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014 and is the university’s common read for 2015-16. The All Bonaventure Reads selection explores the inequity embedded in the U.S. criminal justice system and focuses mainly on the work of the EJI.
First-year students were given copies of “Just Mercy” during summer orientation and asked to read the book prior to the start of the fall semester.
Attorney Morrison has litigated capital and non-capital criminal cases and civil rights cases in state and federal court since 2001. She manages EJI’s criminal justice reform work in Alabama, and in that capacity, has made presentations to state legislators and other public officials on various reform initiatives. Morrison also coordinates EJI’s re-entry program for recently released prisoners and has extensive experience working with prisoners to develop constructive re-entry plans.
Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges in eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults. He has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won a historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.
Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for more than 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge the legacy of racial inequality in America, including major projects to educate communities about slavery, lynching and racial segregation. Stevenson is also a professor of law at the New York University School of Law.
Prior to their campus address, Morrison and Hinton will have dinner with a number of freshmen, including eight students whose essays about “Just Mercy” were selected as the best in their class. Read their reflections at www.sbu.edu/AllBonaventureReads.
Morrison and Hinton’s visit to St. Bonaventure is also part of the university’s #RaceMatters series that was designed to spur positive communication about race issues. Learn more at http://www.sbu.edu/RaceMatters.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #5 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
St. Bonaventure University has selected “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” by Jose Antonio Vargas as its All Bonaventure Reads (ABR) book for 2019-2020.
“Dear America” tells the story of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and his journey through life as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. With passion and ambition, Vargas expresses what it means to be an illegal citizen in a time where fear for being deported is at its highest.
The book also allows readers to stand in Vargas’ shoes and understand life’s biggest difficulties when becoming a legal citizen is no longer an option.
As part of the All Bonaventure Reads initiative, first-year students at St. Bonaventure will receive a copy of “Dear America” during Orientation and be asked to read the book and write an essay reflecting on it as their first college assignment. Students will be engaged in conversations about the book’s themes in their first-year seminar course, SBU 101, and various campuswide events during the upcoming academic year.
“l cried reading this book, realizing more fully what my parents endured.”
— Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and Where the Past Begins
“This book couldn’t be more timely and more necessary.”
— Dave Eggers, New York Timesbestselling author of What Is the What and The Monk of Mokha
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