Birmingham’s first black sheriff, court officials rethink US policing

Birmingham, Alabama pinned on a map

AL.COM (AP) — In a state where conservative politicians typically preach about getting tough on crime, the new sheriff of Jefferson County Alabama, veteran law enforcement officer Mark Pettway, ran and won on an alternative message. He favors decriminalizing marijuana, opposes arming school employees, supports additional jailhouse education programs to reduce recidivism and plans for deputies to go out and talk to people more often, rather than just patrolling.

Pettway became the first black person elected sheriff in Birmingham on the same day voters elected the community’s first black district attorney. Sheriff Pettway sees himself as part of a new wave of officers and court officials tasked with enforcing laws and rebuilding community trust fractured by police shootings, mass incarceration, and uneven enforcement that critics call racist.

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Surviving Alabama’s death row

racial justiceWhen he was 29, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of the murders of two fast-food managers in Birmingham, Alabama and sentenced to death row. He was finally freed in 2015 after serving 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now 61, he’s written a book about his experiences, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. Hinton talked to Slate about his experience and his new book:

It didn’t matter that he had a good alibi. It didn’t matter that he passed a polygraph test. A racially biased prosecutor presenting faulty evidence that Hinton’s mother’s gun was used in the crimes, and aided by Hinton’s own contemptuous and incompetent defense counsel, won a conviction anyway.

Read more about Hinton and his new book at Slate.com.

What it’s like to spend 30 years on death row

Anthony Ray Hinton spent 30 years on death row in Alabama for a crime he didn’t commit. Hinton says proposed changes to the state’s post-conviction procedures by the Alabama legislature would mean he would have been executed if they had been in place, despite his innocence. Hinton’s first-person account is available here at al.com.