“I was born with the same gift from God we are all born with – the impulse to reach out and lessen the suffering of another human being. It was a gift, and we each had a choice whether to use this gift or not.”
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row is a powerful and harrowing story of hope, faith, and hanging on in the face of the worst adversity.
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- Author: Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin, forward by Bryan Stevenson
- Published: March 27, 2018
- Type: Non-fiction
- Genre: Memoir
- I purchased from Amazon and read on Kindle
My Thoughts About The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
I read The Sun Does Shine right after reading Just Mercy. It was a one two punch in the most difficult and inspiring ways. Bryan Stevenson writes about Anthony Ray Hinton in his book and then Hinton writes about Bryan Stevenson in his. It was fascinating to read the story first from the point of view of the attorney and then from the point of view of the client/prisoner.
Anthony Ray Hinton spent decades on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. There was absolutely no true evidence to suggest that Mr. Hinton had committed the crime. In fact, he was at work locked in a warehouse miles away at the time the murder was committed.
In spite of this Hinton was was taken into custody, charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with a series of fatal armed robberies, assigned a lawyer who was either incompetent or just didn’t care…or both, and ultimately convicted and sentenced to death.
“My only crime was being born black in Alabama,” Hinton writes. He was told by a police officer, “You know, I don’t even care whether you did or didn’t do it … In fact, I believe you didn’t do it. But it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t do it, one of your brothers did. And you’re going to take the rap. You want to know why?”
The officer then gave Hinton “5 reasons.” “Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man gonna say you shot him. Number three, you’re gonna have a white district attorney. Number four, you’re gonna have a white judge. And number five, you’re gonna have an all-white jury.”
Sadly, the officer was right.
Anthony would spend the next 30 years on death row trying to prove his innocence while he watched man after man led to the electric chair in a room just past his own cell. His descriptions of what it was like in the prison during the executions were harrowing.
Hinton writes about the heat in the cells, the terrible food, the boredom, and the screams in the night. You feel the horror of his wrongful imprisonment in every word. And yet, he was able to maintain his dignity, his humanity, and above all, his faith throughout the years. Hinton’s unquenchable love for and belief in the mercy of God was the most inspiring part of the book for me. I don’t know how he held on, but he did. In addition to God, he also had the constant, unwavering love of his mother, and the devotion of a best friend, Lester, who stayed true and visited throughout the entire 30 years.
One of the most touching parts of the book to me was the story of the unlikely friendship that Anthony Hinton develops with Henry Hays. Henry was a fellow prisoner who had lynched a black teenager and whose father was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan. I’ve read a little about Henry Hays and it seems that from birth he was abused and taught to hate by his father. Henry’s thoughts and feelings were changed by the compassion and friendship that Hinton offered.
It’s not that Hinton pretends that the men on death row were all innocent. I never felt that he was trying to excuse their actions. He understood that many of them were guilty of horrible crimes, but he tried to know and understand them in spite of this. My favorite quote in the book is the one at the beginning of this review, “I was born with the same gift from God we are all born with – the impulse to reach out and lessen the suffering of another human being. It was a gift, and we each had a choice whether to use this gift or not.”
Antony Ray Hinton made a decision to use that gift while on death row.
The book is interspersed with transcripts of official documents as well as communications with the various lawyers that Hinton encounters. This becomes especially compelling when Bryan Stevenson becomes a part of the case. I loved reading the letters between Stevenson and Hinton. Stevenson’s letter express actual care and concern and were remarkably different than the letter from attorneys that had come before him.
Everything began to change for Hinton after he was able to involve Stevenson in his case until he was eventually released.
Some may say that Bryan Stevenson is a hero and I agree, Anthony Ray Hinton is also a hero. His endurance, his capacity for forgiveness, his ability to laugh in the bleakest of circumstances, his compassion for other people show that he is a remarkable man.
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row is a riveting read.
Official Blurb from Good Reads
A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading by a man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.
But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.
With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.