In a segment which aired on Sunday night,
interviewed three exonerees—Anthony Ray Hinton, Ken Ireland and Julie Baumer –about their lives since being released from prison and declared innocent of wrongful convictions.
Hinton was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1985 in Alabama and sentenced to die. On death row, Hinton spent nearly 30 years in solitary confinement in a 5×8 cell. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court said that Hinton had received inadequate defense from his attorney and overturned his conviction. And last year, he was released when ballistic experts were not able to prove that bullets found at the crime scene had come from a gun owned by Hinton’s mother in 1985. Hinton was represented by attorney Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative—a non-profit legal organization based in Alabama. Upon his release, Hinton says that he received neither an apology nor reentry assistance from the state of Alabama.
“Thirty years ago, a judge proudly stood up and said, ‘I sentence you to die.’ Thirty years later, no one had the decency to say, ‘Mr.Hinton, [we’re] sorry—we’re sorry for what took place.’ No one has said it.”
, Hinton would have qualified for more benefits—a bus ticket home, housing assistance, job training—had he actually been guilty and released on parole.
“You get out and you’re just out. If you don’t have a place to live or money or whatever, you ask yourself what you’re going to do,” said Hinton to
. His saving grace has been his best friend of more than 30 years who always promised him that if and when he was released, he could live with him. He is considering applying for compensation from the state but his chances to receive payment are slim; out of 41 claims, Alabama has rewarded compensation to only one person according to
Ireland, who spent 21 years in prison in Connecticut for a 1986 rape and murder, was also fortunate to have someone to live with—his sister—following his release in 2010. Even though he was exonerated six years ago, he was compensated just last year after Connecticut passed a law to compensate wrongfully convicted people. He was awarded $6 million.
Like Ireland, Baumer was also exonerated in 2010. She had been wrongfully convicted of child abuse in 2005 in Michigan and sentenced to 10 to 15 years. But Baumer told
that she was actually homeless after she was exonerated and released from prison. Sadly, she has yet to receive assistance from the state; Michigan does not currently have a compensation law. Today, she works for a church and lobbies her state legislators to consider passing a law that award her and other Michigan exonerees for the time they were falsely imprisoned.
Stevenson said that exonerees have a multitude of needs—ranging from housing to medical to mental health to financial—when they are released from prison, and they deserve immediate assistance from the state in meeting those needs.
“They need to know that their victimization, that their abuse, has been taken seriously,” says Stevenson.
Watch the segment