WASHINGTON - A man in Alabama who has been on death row for nearly 30 years for murder and robbery charges will be released after his case was dismissed, lawyers said Thursday.
Anthony Ray Hinton will walk free Friday after spending close to three decades in jail over the 1985 murder of two men in two separate restaurant hold-ups.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro dismissed all charges against Hinton after his lawyers from the Equal Justice Initiative argued there was not enough evidence linking him to the crimes.
"We are thrilled that Mr Hinton will finally be released because he has unnecessarily spent years on Alabama's death row when evidence of his innocence was clearly presented," said his chief attorney Bryan Stevenson.
Hinton, who was 29 at the time of the crime, is one of the longest serving death row prisoners in Alabama history and among the longest serving condemned prisoners to be freed, according to EJI.
Hinton was charged after two restaurant managers were shot dead in a robbery at a fast-food restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama.
Police did not find eyewitnesses or fingerprints evidence, according to EJI.
That same year, another restaurant was held up at gun point and the manager was shot and seriously injured.
The manager identified Hinton as the suspect, though Hinton said he was at work at the time 15 miles (24 kilometers) away.
Police seized a gun owned by Hinton's mother and said it was used in all three crimes.
Stevenson said Hinton, who is black, was wrongly convicted in part because the colour of his skin.
"Race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance, and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice," Stevenson said.
Hinton has maintained his innocence during three decades in prison.
Forensic experts, including a former FBI agent, examined the seized gun and concluded it was not used in the crimes.
Judge Petro granted him a new trial last year after the Supreme Court reversed the decision of a lower court.
Hinton is the 152nd person on death row to be cleared since 1973 and the second to be exonerated in 2015, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.