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Changes: Anthony Ray Hinton

The audio version of this episode is available here.

Annie [00:00:05] Hello, welcome to Changes. It's Annie Macmanus here, great to have you with me. Today's episode is *emphasis* unforgettable. It is one of the most powerful and important stories we've ever had on Changes. It's a bit longer than our usual episode, but with good reason. It's also, I think, the episode where I speak the least in the entire series of Changes, I just listened, gobsmacked as my guest told his story. That guest is Anthony Ray Hinton. In 1985, Anthony was wrongfully convicted of two murders in Alabama and consequently spent nearly 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. His story is one of racism and unimaginable injustice, but also of remarkable resilience and forgiveness. It will grip you, enrage you, it will stay with you forever. It may even change your views on redemption and capital punishment at large. During his incarceration, Anthony watched 54 inmates walk to their deaths on the electric chair. He also heard stories of some horrendous crimes from his fellow inmates. For sensitivity, we've removed some of the more graphic details of the crimes committed, however please be mindful that the content is at times upsetting. The same death penalty that sentenced Anthony in Alabama has been making headlines recently due to an offender being put to death using pure nitrogen gas, the first death row inmate ever to be executed using this method. Whether the death penalty should exist is being increasingly debated. According to the latest figures from Amnesty International, in 2022, 55 countries had the death penalty, of which 23 had not used it for ten years. Globally, Amnesty International believes at least 28,282 people were under sentence of death at the end of 2022. Anthony himself is advocating for change, and by listening to his story you can make up your own mind what you think of the death penalty. Prepare to be moved by an unforgettable conversation with Anthony Ray Hinton... Anthony, can I ask you about your childhood, if you don't mind? What kind of a boy were you? 

Anthony [00:02:27] Well, I was born to a mother of ten children, of five boys and five girls, and I was the babe of the family. And I used to tease my mom when I was a little older, and I said mom, you kept having children until you finally got it right in the end *Annie laughs*. Me being the right one, you decided you wouldn't have no more. And so to this day I get a little laughed about it, but my childhood was perhaps as best it could be. My mother never had money, but what I did have was unconditional love from my mother. And, I had brothers and sisters that we all got along with, we all respected one another, that was one of my mother rules. I lived in a coal mining community and I grew up a community where it really meant 'it takes a village to raise a child'. My mother didn't just raise me, my whole community helped form me to who I am today. I learned at a very early age what racism was about. We were separated, whites live over here, blacks live over there. You couldn't do this. You couldn't do that. Or we used to go and walk to school, and we went integrated into the school, and we decided um just play basketball or football, and we would have to walk home because we didn't have a car. But on our way home, walking from practice, every car that we heard, we had to run into the woods just in case it was some white mens that was looking for trouble. And, as I look back today I see how sad that must have been for me and I didn't realise it. That he as a child was doing nothing but being a child, but yet my mother and my community had taught me to run before anything happened, and no child should ever have to go through the trauma that I had to go through as a child. Being called all kinds of names when you go in a store or telling you to go to the back... uhh you don't have no right to be in here. So I experienced a great deal of injustice and today I would use the word injustice because to me racism is nothing but injustice towards another human being. But thank God that I was a child, that I didn't quite understand what it was all about, what it was- what started it, what made this person think they was better than me because as a child, my mother brought me up to believe that I'm no better than anyone but I'm not no less than anyone. 

Annie [00:05:15] Anthony, what would you say was the biggest change you went through in childhood? 

Anthony [00:05:21] Oo! The biggest change to me was going and learning that other than yourself, everybody having an opinion. And learning how to get along with people of other races, knowing what to say and not what to say. Uh, you couldn't say perhaps what you really was feeling because that might start a race war. And so you learn to keep your words in check. You learn to not be honest. You learn to say, it's okay, when it wasn't okay. That's the change that I had to adjust to, that I couldn't be who I were. 

Annie [00:06:05] Can you tell us about the day that everything changed for you? 

Anthony [00:06:11] That day, uhh like any other day I just woke up with a- not a care in the world. Being free, uhh least I thought I was free to do what I want, to go where I want, but my mom was in the kitchen and she was making some lemonade because it was so hot in Alabama. My mom had instructed me to go and cut the grass. And as I was more in the grass, I happened to look up and there stood two white gentlemen that I never seen before. And I cut the lawn mower off and I say, can I help you? And one of the gentlemen replied, we're looking for Anthony Ray Hinton and I said, that would be me, how can I help you? And he said, well, we have a warrant for your arrest. And I said, what are the charges? He said, we'll explain it to you later but right now we want you to put your hands behind your back. I complied because as a child, you've been taught to obey authority, you've been taught to do whatever the police tell you to do. And so, without question, I put my hands behind my back. One of the police put the handcuffs on me, and they proceeded to put me in the police car. And I said, at least allow me to go in and tell my mother I'm being arrested for something. And one of the detectives said, we can't let you go back inside. And we argued for about a minute or two and finally the other detective said, let him go in and tell his mother he's been arrested. And I just go in the house and I just show my mother the handcuffs on me and like any good mother, she began to scream and holler. What are those handcuffs doing on my baby? 

Annie [00:08:00] How old were you, Anthony? 

Anthony [00:08:02] At that particular time, I was 29 years of age. And detective said take him out while I stay in here and talk to his mother. A few minutes later, he comes out and we proceeded to go to the Birmingham County Jail and on our way there one of the detectives asked me did I own a firearm and I said no. I said, but my mother has an old gun that she keeps around the house for snakes. And once I reveal that to them, they drop me off at a substation, went back to my mother home and told her that I had informed them about a gun she owns. My mother gave them the gun because again, I was brought up always tell the truth. My mother always said, if you haven't done anything then you have no reason to lie. If you haven't done anything, why was you running? Stand there and tell the truth. And that day I told the truth. They went and got the gun, picked me back up and took me to the county jail. But on our way there I asked these detectives at least 50 times, why am I being arrested? And they never would say anything. And as they drove a little further I asked for the 51st. And I said it perhaps a little louder, a little angrier, 'I'm talking to you'. I asked the detective, why was I being arrested? And this seemed to set to detective off that wasn't driving and he looked at me and he said, you want to know why we arrested you? I said, yes. He said, we're going to charge you with first degree robbery, first degree kidnap and first degree attempted murder. And I replied, oh, you got the wrong person. I haven't done any of that. And he looked at me and he said, let me tell you something right now. I don't care whether you did it or didn't do it but imma make sure you found guilty of it. I said for a crime I didn't commit?! He said you must have a hearing problem, didn't I just tell you I don't care whether you did it or didn't do it? He said if you don't remember nothing else remember this, I am the one who's going to make sure you're found guilty of it. And he turned back around in... I'm going to say with less than 5 to 10 seconds. He turned back and looked at me, he said by the way, there's five things that are going to convict you, would you like to know what they are? And I said yes. He said, number one, you black. Number two, a white man is going to say you shot him whether you shot him or not, believe me, I don't care. He's saying, number three, you're going to have a white judge. Number four, you're going to have a white prosecutor. And number five, you're going to have an all white jury. He said, do you know what that spell? And he repeated the word conviction, conviction, conviction, conviction, *Annie takes a deep breath* conviction. And as we got to the county jail, they placed me in this holding cell and I had been in there for about 2.5 hour when he come back. I jumped up and I said, detective, if you don't mind, tell me the date and the time this crime took place. He goes in his note and tell me the date and he tell me the time, and when he told me the time I said, thank God. Thank you, Jesus. And I said that because I know for a fact at that particular date, that particular time, I was on my job, and I told the detective this and I gave him my supervisor name, his phone number, the address where I was working and what I was so relieved about, as a black man I was relieved that he would be going to my supervisor who happen to be white. And once he talked to my white supervisor, he would realise that it wasn't me who committed the crime. Well, he went, talked to my supervisor, about 3 hours or 4 hours later he come back and he opened the cell, I jumped up and he looked at me and he said, I have good news and bad news. He said, the good news is your alibi checks out. He said, we no longer going to charge you with first degree robbery, first degree kidnap, first degree attempted murder. But now WE have decided we're going to charge you with two counts of first degree capital murder. And I said capital murder?! But I haven't killed anyone?! He said on my way here, didn't I tell you I didn't care whether you committed a crime or not? And I said, yes. He said well, for these new charges I don't care whether you did it or didn't do it. He said, but remember what I told you, I'm going to be the one to make sure you found guilty? He said the same thing for these new charges. And I looked at this detective and I was trying to explain to him that I could never take another human life and I was talking and talking and he finally put up his hand as to say, be quiet. And he looked me in the eye and he said, let me be honest with you since you're being honest with me. He said, I truly believe you didn't commit the crime. He said, but since y'all, referring to all black people, he said since y'all is always helping one another, and since y'all is always taking up for one another, why don't you take this rap for one of your homeboys who truly committed the crime? And I looked at that detective with tears in my eyes, and I said detective, there is not a homeboy in this world that I would take a rap for like this. He shut the door and I sit in jail for a year and a half. And I finally go before a judge and a judge read off the charges. That judge said Anthony Ray Hinton, you've been charged with two counts of first degree capital murder, how do you plead? I said not guilty your honour. He said, do you have an attorney? I said, no your honour. He said can you afford an attorney? I said no your honour. And he look back in that courtroom, and he called this attorney up front, and he instructed this attorney that he wanted him to represent me on two counts of first degree capital murder. But without even asking me my name, without even saying a word to me, the first thing that attorneys said, he said, I did not go to law school to do pro bono work. And I looked at the attorney and I said sir, would it make a difference to you if I told you I was innocent? And that lawyer looked at me and he said, the problem with that statement, all of y'all is always doing something and the moment you get caught, you cry you didn't do it. This is the lawyer that I had to believe that was going to represent me to the best of his ability. This is the lawyer that I had to somehow try and convince that I was innocent. Well, that lawyer did exactly enough to get me found guilty. Once they seen that I couldn't afford an attorney, they knew that they could get a conviction. They knew they could get someone to say that the bullets match when they didn't match. And I never will forget the day the jury come back with a guilty verdict. The judge proudly stood up, looked me in the eye and said Anthony Ray Hinton, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers, and it is the order of this court that I sentence you to death. And that judge said, and may God have mercy on your soul. Just when I thought I had heard it all, the prosecution, the D.A., perhaps said it a little louder than he intended to say it, but he could be heard over the courtroom saying these words. "We didn't get the right n*gger today, but at least we got a n*gger off the street". And I was that n*gger. And on December 17th 1986, I was transported to a home correction facility where I would remain until the day that they executed me. I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day, that I would be charged with capital murder, sentenced to death, and spend 30 years of my life in a five by seven. I wish I could tell you and your audience this morning that the state of Alabama made an honest mistake, but the state of Alabama didn't make an honest mistake. I wish I could tell you that being born black and poor had nothing to do with me spending 30 years inside of a five by seven, for 30 long years. The system that I onced believed in, I no longer believed in it. The system that I once believed in had every intention of taking my life for a crime they knew that I didn't commit. And that system came within a year of taking my life. 

[00:18:21] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:18:32] Anthony, please can you describe your surroundings in death row? 

Anthony [00:18:37] I'm around over 200 mens constantly screaming, constantly crying, constantly hollering 24/7, there is no lights out and everybody go to sleep- uhh on death row, if you want to stay up seven days a week, never get to sleep, they don't care. They don't care about you as a whole because at some point in some time, they're going to come and get you and take you and execute you. 

Annie [00:19:05] Did you have any natural light in your cell? 

Anthony [00:19:07] No, no, uh, I was uh, had nothing but barbwire and concrete. Uh, I had a bed mounted to the wall and a toilet mounted to the wall, and that was it. We didn't have TV, we didn't have radio, we didn't have air conditioning like people think, we didn't have heaters. Or in summertime, we'd almost burn up with heat. In wintertime, we almost froze to death due to lack of heat. We was allowed to take a shower every other day. In the wintertime, the water was ice cold, and in the summertime the water was hot. And so they played these mind games with you to keep you from getting so used to and accustomed to coming out your cell just for a shower. And when you did go to shower, they would shackle your feet, shackle your waist and shackle your hands. And once you got into the shower, they would take the cuff off so you could, uh take a shower and you had five minutes to get done and get it over with, and they take you back. You never did leave your cell unless three men or three guards escorted you. I ate breakfast every morning at 2:45. Every morning it was waking you up for breakfast, and you couldn't say I didn't want it, you would have to get up, look the officer in the eye and say I don't want to eat breakfast. And then, and only then, was you allowed to lay back down. So when I speak of this hell, mens was constantly screaming, hollering. You had mens that had served in the war living alongside me. They thought they were still in war and they was pretending that they was shooting a gun *imitates gunfire* all day sometimes. And so what I did, I had to convince my mind that I was living somewhere else other than that solitary confinement. And now that I realise I could use my mind to leave the hell that I was in anytime, I left every day. I travel somewhere every day. I married while I was on death row to two of the most beautiful women in the world. Halle Berry being one of them and Sandra Bullock being the next one. I used my mind as a light for those that was in darkness. I started my own book club on death row. 

Annie [00:21:55] And they let you sit with the other inmates and they let you do that? 

Anthony [00:21:58] Yes. 

Annie [00:21:59] Wow. 

Anthony [00:22:00] And so, I've always believed that all of us, we may not have as much as some but we have enough that we can share. And I had just enough hope that I was willing to share it with the other mens. 

Annie [00:22:25] And tell me about the other inmates, Anthony, what did you learn about the people you were with and how did the relationships with them change you? 

Anthony [00:22:33] I realised first and foremost that they were human beings. And then I realised that they were human beings who had some really, really bad upbringings as children, lived in property, lived in houses where no heat, no water, just was in there. Half of 'em didn't know they father, they mother was too strung out on drugs and instead of them being able to go to school, they went to school only to drop out in the seventh grade. And I asked them how was they allowed to drop out in the seventh grade and nobody made them go to school? And they informed me that nobody really cared. And so, these men took to the street, these men became children to adulthood and from adulthood they became drug addicts, and they became dependent on whoever they can rob, whoever they can steal from to support they habits. And I would ask them, do they remember doing whatever they've been convicted of doing? And each one of them said, I didn't go into that house to kill anybody, I went in that house to steal so I can get some money to buy some dope. By being on death row, they was able to clean their life up and get off drugs. The true human being was able to come out for the first time in their life. They was around another human beings who showed them general concern and general care. When they was in the street, nobody showed them that they cared about em. And I would try my best to let them know it's never too late to have compassion, it's never too late to learn how to forgive. It's never too late to have understanding. What I've understood about these men, my life was different from theirs. I had a mother who cared about me, I had a mother who provided for me, I had a mother who believed in education. I had a mother who was determined that I was going to be somebody. 

Annie [00:25:11] Did your mother come and see you? 

Anthony [00:25:12] Oh, absolutely. Yes ma'am. My mother came to see me and that was one of the things that all the other men who didn't get a visit used to say. Man, you and your mama must have one great relationship. She comes to see you every week and then they moved it from a week to a month. And my mother came to see me until she got down in bad health and my best friend, oh Lester, my childhood friend came to see me for 30 straight years, for a total of 10,999 visits. 

Annie [00:26:00] Wow. 

Anthony [00:26:00] Regardless of what society said, he showed me that he was my friend and he was going to be my friend to the very end. And I am so proud to say to this day, we are still the best of friends. We talk to each other every day. When I got released from prison he and his wife opened their home so I could have a place to live because I got out and I didn't have a place to live. And so I stayed with him and his wife until I was able to fix my mom old house back up so I can live in it. And so even on the road, those men realised that I had some people in my life that love me, cared about me and what would break my heart? When one of them would say I wish I had somebody that cared about me like that. 

Annie [00:27:13] Anthony, in your book, your wonderful, wonderful book The Sun Does Shine, you describe a friendship that you made with a very unlikely person in there. You're nodding, you know who I mean. Would you mind telling us about this man and what- what happened? 

Anthony [00:27:31] Henry was his name. 

Annie [00:27:34] Right. 

Anthony [00:27:34] And Henry was born in a KKK family, better known as the Ku Klux Klan family. And his daddy was the Grand Wizard of the Klan in Alabama. And Henry was a Klansman as well. And one day a jury found a black man not guilty for killing a white police officer and the Klan didn't like that. And his daddy gave him and two other clansmen an order to go out and kill the first black male they came across. All of Henry life, he was taught to hate. His mother told him to hate, his father told him to hate, his community told him hate. And so Henry thought he hated people of colour. So when Henry committed this crime they apprehend Henry and they sentence Henry to death. And so when Henry came to death row, they put Henry by me and on death row you can't see who it is, you just speak to people. And I said, hey, my name is Anthony, everybody call me Ray on the row. And he said, my name is Henry. And Henry and I began to talk and about a day later, I found out and realised that Henry was a cool Klu Klux Klansman. And I realised that Henry was there for killing these young black men and so I said Henry, why you didn't tell me who you were? And he didn't respond. I said Henry, why you didn't tell me who you were? And Henry didn't respond again. After I realised that Henry wasn't going to respond, I had to ask myself did it matter who Henry were? And did it matter what Henry had done? And I told myself it didn't matter. You see, all of my life my mother told me no matter what one does in life, they still deserve compassion. She told me they still deserve to be loved. They still deserve to be forgiven. I forgave Henry. I had compassion for Henry. And I continued to talk to Henry. And over the course of 15 years I got to know Henry and I told him, I said Henry, I want you to say whatever you want to say. I want you to call me whatever name you want to call me. I said, don't change up because you're talking to me. Be who you think you are Henry. And over the course of 2 or 3 years I realised that Henry wasn't using the N-word no longer, Henry was referring to me as Ray. Six years into getting to know Henry I had asked the warden about this book club I wanted to start. Oh, I wanted Henry to be one of the people that read the book. And so the warden granted me permission to have my book club, and I chose Henry and the first book that I wanted Henry to read was by James Baldwin, Go Tell It On The Mountain. And I wanted Henry to realise that we was nothing that he thought we were. To my surprise, when everybody was done reading the book, we went into this room and we sit down and Henry had wrote six pages, back and front on the paper what he had learned about this book. And to my surprise, the first thing Henry said out of his mouth, 'I didn't know James Baldwin was black, I didn't know black people wrote books, I didn't know because my upbringing, I was never told that black people was doctors and lawyers and things'. So Henry stood up in front of the class and told what he got out of the book, and I could see the hurt in Henry face for the first time in my life. Because Henry now recognised that white people do have rights that black people didn't have. And I asked Henry, I say, Henry, how did that make you feel? He said, well, I felt that since he went and fought for this country, I felt that he should have every right that I had. And I say, Henry, you're beginning to grow. And, Henry, you're going to grow a lot before you leave this place. Fast forward two years later, his father came to see him, Benny, and Henry begged for me to come over to his table. I got up, which I wasn't supposed to get up, I walked over to his table and I said, what's up Henry? And he said, I want you to meet my- my dad. He said Dad, this is my friend Ray. And I reached my hand out to shake his father hand, but his father wouldn't shake mine. And once I realised his father wasn't going to shake my hand, I went on back to my table and I said, I'll talk to you later, Henry. And after visiting hours was over they carried us back into this room and they strip searched you. And I looked at Henry and he was looking sad and I said, Henry, what's wrong? And he said, oh, nothing. I said Henry come on man,  something is wrong, what's wrong? And he looked at me and he said, my father told me as long as he come to see me I am not to invite a n*gger to his table. And I looked at Henry, with a smile, and I said Henry, that is your father cancer. If your father want to die with that cancer called hate, Henry let him die. But you don't have to die with that hate cancer, Henry you have the opportunity to remove that cancer of hate out of your system. That night henry and I talked all night long, I mean all night. A year later, they sent Henry an execution date and he request that I sit with him the day of his execution because all of his family had died out, and the warden granted his request. That day, my job was to make Henry laugh all day. I didn't want Henry to think about today is my last day on earth. I wanted Henry just to laugh and if I had to grade myself, I probably would get an A-plus *Annie giggles* because Henry and I laughed all day, we talked about everything, and I got to the point where I even told him how crazy, how stupid racism, really is. I said, Henry, I feel so bad for you, you didn't get a chance to enjoy your childhood for learning how to hate. Too many kids don't get to be kids because of what they parents think. And I said, I hope that one day you'll get a chance to relive your childhood all over again. Now it's about 9:30, they bring him his final meal and when you take the lid off his meal, I look at it, it's a six ounce steak. I said, Henry, that's all you want for your last meal is a six ounce steak? And he said yes, Ray. I said, oh well you ready to die then, that's all you want to eat. And he looked at me and he said, Ray, if it come your time what you gone order? I said when it come my time, what I'm gone eat, they gone have to go to the forrest and get it. I say, when they go to the farmers and bring back whatever they bring back, I'm going to say that's not what I want, that's not what I told y'all I want to eat. We laughed and I said Henry I'm gone make them go back to the forrest and when they come back again, I'm gone say that's not what I ordered *Annie laughs*. I said, in other words Henry, there's a law on the book that said they can't execute me until I eat my last meal, I'm gone be alive for the rest of my life because *Annie laughs* no matter what they bring, it's not what I want. Him and I just laughed and he looked at me and he said, Ray, only you could think of something like that *Annie laughs*. 10:30 come, the guard open the door and for the first time they allow me to embrace Henry. 

Annie [00:37:33] Wow. 

Anthony [00:37:33] And I hug Henry like a brother and I said, Henry, I want you to know that for the last 15 years you have been a joy. I've seen you grow from hate to love. I seen you change right before my eyes. And I said Henry, I want you to know tonight that I love you, that I care about you and I truly believe that one day we'll see each other again. And Henry looked at me and he said, Ray, for the last 15 years I have enjoyed being around you. For I only wish that we had known each other earlier. And I said well I don't know about that, Henry, I said-

Annie [00:38:23] *Laughs* Glad I didn't know you earlier, to be honest! Ahh.

Anthony [00:38:25] I said Henry, we met when we should have met. 

Annie [00:38:30] *Laughing* Yeah, right. 

Anthony [00:38:31] And he looked at me as a surprise and he said Ray I want you to know that I did give my life to God, and I did ask God for forgiveness, and I prayed for the victims family and I hope one day that they can find it in they heart to forgive me. They allowed us to embrace one last time and I told Henry, I see you soon one day. They take him away and they clean him up and put him all new clothes. And since he had already ate his last meal they dropped the microphone down and they asked Henry did he have any final words? And the words that I'm about to say is what I will never get out of my mind. Henry said these words, 'all of my life I was taught to hate. The very people that I was taught to hate are the very one that showed me nothing but love. And as I leave this world tonight, I leave this world now knowing what real love feel like'. And they executed my friend. 

Annie [00:39:48] And he was the first white man to ever be executed on account of killing a black man, am I right? 

Anthony [00:39:54] Absolutely, the only ones. And it showed me even in the midst of being on the row myself, I didn't judge no man because I knew I was innocent. I had a heart to forgive, and I have a heart that as a kid my mom used to tell me, you are responsible for how you treat others, you're not responsible for how others treat you. And I am so proud today to call Henry my friend. I am sad that he gone because I really believe that the day that they executed Henry, they took someone away from us that I believe could have taught us how to learn to talk to each other and learn to change your ways. But he didn't get that opportunity. 

[00:40:58] *Short musical interlude*

Annie [00:41:09] Anthony, 54 people walked past your cell to their deaths in the time that you were in there. You say yourself you were a year away from being executed. How did you get out? 

Anthony [00:41:21] Nothing but the grace of God allowed me to get out. This non-profit organisation in Montgomery, Alabama, called the Equal Justice Initiative took over my case and worked diligently for 16 years to make sure that the state of Alabama didn't execute an innocent man. And by the grace of God, I wasn't executed. They dropped all the charges on me on April the 3rd 2015, and they said you was free to go. But I wasn't free. I was just let go. That system took my life in many forms that the average person don't never think about. That system took my mother, for my mother passed before I could be released. That system took my freedom that I refuse to this day to say that I'm free. I just say I'm out. I will never be free until the day I die. You see, because that system showed me that innocent men do not look behind the shoulder to see who is following them. Innocent men don't look and live in their own home and worry about whether the police is going to kick your door down and do the same thing over again. And my mind is constantly, is on death row where I know I spent half of my life for a crime I didn't commit. Nine years later no one has had the decency to say Mr. Hinton, we're sorry. 

Annie [00:43:14] I can't get over that. I can't believe no one has been accountable. No one has spoken. No one has tried to get in touch with you to tell you- that. Is. Unbelievable. I'm so sorry.That you haven't had that. 

Anthony [00:43:33] Not only has no one apologised, no one has asked me do I need to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist? No one have given me one penny for the 30 years that they took from me. When I tried to file for compensation, I was told to tell that n*gger just be thankful we didn't execute him, and for him to go home and just live his life. And every day I have to live with those words, every day I have to be better than the men's and women that did this to me. 

Annie [00:44:29] Who told you that, Anthony? How did they get away with speaking to you like that now when you came out?! 

Anthony [00:44:35] This is a system that is controlled by predominately white men and when a person of colour who have no power, there's nothing you can do. Yes, everybody think America is this great country, but America is not as great as people think it are. And you need not do nothing but live here in America for a short period of time and you will see the disparity, you will see the racism, you will see that the system is still working exactly the way it was working in the 1800s. Nothing have change. Somebody is making a lot of money off of having mens in prison. We are not dealing with mass incarceration, we are dealing with a new form of slavery. 

Annie [00:45:43] Yeah. 

Anthony [00:45:43] And somebody is getting really, really, really rich off of slavery in the modern era of the 21st century. 

Annie [00:45:56] When you get out from being confined in that way for that long, how did you go about assimilating? You said you were in your friend Lester's house which is a wonderful situation to be with someone who could keep you safe. 

Anthony [00:46:11] It is a learning process and believe it or not, you still learning but, I didn't realise how mentally it had affected me because the very first night I imagine sleeping in a soft bed and I put my hand on the mattress and the bed felt so soft and I couldn't wait to get in bed to go to sleep after sleeping on steel for 30 years, about 2:00 in the morning, I hadn't fell asleep and my heart rate went to racing. And I'm saying, what's going on? I know God didn't bring me from death row to let me die of a heart attack here. So I was so used to sleeping in a cramped space, I had to go in my friend Lester's bathroom, and that's where I slept on the floor in a small, confined space. My body was so used to sleeping with my knees drawn up toward my chest in a foetal position and for about 3 or 4 nights, that's how I slept. But I never did tell my friend Lester that I wasn't sleeping in the bed, I didn't want him to worry. And so, eventually I would get back in the bed and some night I could sleep for an hour, two hours, and I would have to go back into the bathroom, to get on the floor and sleep. I go back in the next night, try to make it a little longer and eventually I kind of got kind of used to being in the bed and that's how life was for me from the beginning. 

Annie [00:47:54] Did you always manage to hold onto hope in- in that prison? 

Anthony [00:47:58] I did, I held on it for a lot of reason. My mom taught me if no one else believe in you, believe in yourself. Somehow the truth will come out. And so my upbringing played the biggest part in my life being locked up like that. I didn't come to death row with hatred, I came with love for human beings, mankind. And just because I was around a bunch of people that society had said, you would be better off if all of you were dead, it didn't make me feel any less toward those men, or in fact, I felt honoured to be around them and try and show them that, hey, you're worthy of living just like anybody else. What you did was wrong if you did it. And I tried my best to show them what true humanity look like, feel like. 

Annie [00:49:04] Can I ask about, you know, the very state of being in death row? Where you are is named after, you know, what is supposed to be the, you know, your inevitability, this being sentenced to death. It must be so prevalent in your mind the whole time. What, if anything, changed in terms of how you felt about death? 

Anthony [00:49:26] I never thought I would live on the night of execution and when they set that human being on fire, this smell that you get for the next day, you cannot get rid of it. It goes up your nostrils and you cannot get it out. You find yourself trying to blow your nose and you're trying to get it out of your system but it won't- it won't leave it's a smell like no other smell. 

Annie [00:49:57] Because your cell was something like ten metres away from where the chair was, is that correct? 

Anthony [00:50:02] Mines was exactly 30ft away from the death cell. 

Annie [00:50:06] *Whispers* God. 

Anthony [00:50:07] And 54 mens passed by me. You have to put yourself that one day that gone be me. And every time they executed one of my brothers, it looked like it just took a little part of me away as well. 

Annie [00:50:25] Yeah. 

Anthony [00:50:26] And you become depressed. You have to find a way to build yourself back up. You have to find a way, not just for yourself but for the mens that around you, because all of us is there to be executed, and all of us have a number, and all of us have sense enough to know that one day your number is going to be called. And so you go through a legal procedure and every time you get denied you get closer and closer to the death chambre. 30 years is unheard of of staying on Alabama death row, the average stay on Alabama death row is normally 15 years and so I had to learn so much and I had to allow my mind to just do the thing that it need to do in order for me to stay here. But more than anything, the hope that I had, it was real. The hope that I believed in that one day I would be able to tell my story, and I went to bed with that hope I got up in the morning with that hope regardless of who got executed, regardless of what bad news I got from home that a family member had passed, I was not going to let them steal that hope. I was determined to hold on to it. I was determined to make that my way of surviving. And sometimes all you have to do is smile, sometime all you have to do is say hey, I'm only able to smile because I have this hope that one day I will be free, you will be free. You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that there's a higher being, there's a higher calling. I was not going to relinquish that to anyone. 

Annie [00:52:18] And you're telling your story in written form, and we're so grateful to you for telling your story to us today, Anthony. Can I ask you one more question if you don't mind, before we go? And that's a change you'd still like to make. 

Anthony [00:52:32] There are so many but if I could change one thing, I would change how we treat one another. I would change the racism. That's not just in America, but in every country. And realise that all of us are here for only for a short period of time. No matter what you think you own, no matter how much money you have, when you leave this world you cannot get richer. So instead of you sitting around wasting your time hating someone, why not spend that time enjoying life to the fullest? Laugh more, smile more, enjoy your life and then when it's over, it's over. So if I could change that first, that's what I would change. 

Annie [00:53:30] Do you think they will ever get rid of the death penalty? 

Anthony [00:53:33] Yes I do. You know what, I'm a believer that the dark is always just before day. And I believe that good people is going to rise up and demand that we do away with the death penalty. And I truly believe that that day is coming and we will never have to talk again about a person being executed, we can always talk about when they had it, but I truly believe that is on the rise to all be done away with it. And I'm working every day to try to bring an end to it as well. 

Annie [00:54:13] Well, we thank you so much, Anthony. Thank you. 

Anthony [00:54:16] Thank you. 

Annie [00:54:19] I urge you to go and buy Anthony's book. It's called The Sun Does Shine and it is so, so powerful, you will never forget it. It's available now to buy and I'll put a link for it in the show notes. We've also included in there some recent articles about the death penalty if you want to go and do a bit more research. Anthony's story will 100% stay with me. Please share it around to anyone who you think would be interested to hear it. I'd love to hear what you thought of the episode and of Changes at large. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or a comment on Instagram, it means the world and it really helps to get more people listening. You can also reach us on Love to hear from you personally, Thank you for listening! Changes is produced by Louise Mason with assistant production from Anna de Wolff Evans. We'll be back next week, see you then.