Supreme Court Ruling Could Mean New Trial for Alabama Death Row Inmate
By Timothy M. Phelps
February 24, 2014, 4:16 p.m.
WASHINGTON - It’s unusual for this Supreme Court to overturn a death penalty conviction, more so without dissents from conservatives Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.
But Monday all nine justices found a double murder conviction so troubling that without hearing oral arguments they rebuked an Alabama appeals court and sent the case back to consider whether Anthony R. Hinton deserved a new trial.
In three restaurant robberies in Birmingham 29 years ago, two restaurant managers were killed and one injured. The injured manager identified Hinton. But Hinton was charged with the two deaths solely on the strength of ballistics evidence indicating that a .38-caliber revolver found at Hinton’s home was the weapon used in all three shootings.
Hinton’s defense lawyer, and even the trial judge, mistakenly believed the state would pay just $1,000 for an expert witness. The lawyer, who was not identified in the opinion, later testified that he knew the only expert he could afford, Andrew Payne, was not very good, but he hired him anyway.