The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton: Book review by Benjamin Myers QC
April 24, 2020
“The Sun Does Shine” by Anthony Ray Hinton
It’s good to read about how lawyers can make a difference. About how they can make justice happen. It’s uplifting. It matters.
In 1986, Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death for two murders and an attempted murder: crimes that he did not commit. He was convicted on the basis of racial prejudice and professional incompetence. The shortcomings in this process are as obvious as they are repellent: what makes extraordinary reading is how it took thirty years of tortuous appeal and shifting deadlines before the US Supreme Court presented the state of Alabama with no alternative but to drop the case and concede innocence.
‘The Sun Does Shine’ works on two levels. There is the personal level: the account of Anthony Hinton’s life, his trial and conviction and how he faced the prospect of death by electrocution over a period of thirty years, as those around him were executed one by one. And there is the professional level: the story of the lawyers and the legal process. This professional story is an astute analysis of what makes a good lawyer and what makes a bad one. It makes fascinating reading because the bad is so bad, and the good is so good.
Bad is disinterest, failure to follow instructions, half-hearted cross-examination, tactical incompetence, prejudice, dishonesty: it is so breathtakingly bad the only response is anger. Good is the bravery, commitment, sacrifice and skill of the lawyers who fought to save Anthony Hinton’s life, led by Bryan Stevenson.
Survivors each have their own way of surviving. Anthony Hinton survived by his compassion, his faith and his determination to survive. But his life was saved by a lawyer.
Bryan Stevenson’s work is heroic. His Equal Justice Initiative has been running for over thirty years now. It provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted and unfairly sentenced and it challenges the death penalty. His memoir ‘Just Mercy’ describes his courageous work; a film based on the book was released last year. Anthony Hinton’s book takes you right through how it happens. If you have twenty minutes, you can go straight to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2tOp7OxyQ8 and see Bryan Stevenson there: twenty minutes of how a vision of justice is put into practice. It matters: his attitude matters.
Ben specialises in serious crime. He is instructed consistently in cases of murder, manslaughter, high value fraud, money laundering, multimillion-pound confiscation under POCA, drug trafficking, national and international organised crime, rape, historic sexual abuse and armed robbery.