Antony Ray Hinton, in a memoir of his life in prison on death row for a crime he did not commit, begins his saga in The Sun Does Not Shinewhen he was twenty-nine years old and chronicles its ups and downs for twenty-seven years. The book is co-written with Lara Love Hardin with a foreword by Bryan Stevenson, best-selling author of Just Mercy.
A bad joke doesn’t show up until over half the book is finished, but its truth is there from the beginning. Question: “What does capital punishment mean?” Answer: “It means a guy without capital gets punished.”
With enough evidence to have cleared him from the beginning, including the verification that he had clocked in at work before the crime began and clocked out after it was over in a place too far away to have made the trip, he is convicted. Adding a competent attorney to that evidence should have cleared Ray to live a normal life, but he is poor and black in Alabama.
Written in a style that gives a feel that Ray is sitting across from you at the table over a cup of coffee (or several considering its length), he takes you to his small bare cell with less than most of us would consider essentials. Recounting a story that goes through a range of emotions, surprisingly including a fair batch of humor, leaves one wondering at the resilience of the human spirit. I will not spoil his story by relating his coping mechanisms that thread through and add interest to the memoir.
I recommend the book to anyone interested in justice and to those, like me, who have wondered how a human being could survive in what amounts to a small cage with little or nothing to do.