BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A man who spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row walked free Friday hours after prosecutors acknowledged that the only evidence they had against him couldn't prove he committed the crime.
Ray Hinton was 29 when he was arrested for two 1985 killings. Freed at age 58, with gray hair and a beard, he was embraced by his sobbing sisters, who said "thank you, Jesus," as they wrapped their arms around him outside the Jefferson County Jail.
Prosecutors said this week that new ballistics tests couldn't match his mother's gun to any of the six bullets found at the crime scenes.
"I shouldn't have sat on death row for 30 years. All they had to do was test the gun," Hinton said.
The State of Alabama offered no immediate apology.
"When you think you are high and mighty and you are above the law, you don't have to answer to nobody. But I got news for them, everybody who played a part in sending me to death row, you will answer to God," Hinton said. "They just didn't take me from my family and friends. They had every intention of executing me for something I didn't do."
Hinton was arrested in 1985 for the murders of two Birmingham fast-food restaurant managers after the survivor of a third restaurant robbery identified Hinton as the gunman. Prosecution experts said at the trial that bullets recovered at all three crime scenes matched Hinton's mother's .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. He was convicted despite an alibi: He had been at work inside a locked warehouse 15 minutes away during the third shooting.
Hinton left the jail for a cemetery, planning to put flowers on the grave of his mother, who died in 2002.