Friday, December 07, 2018

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton was a great book subtitled How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, with Hinton released after spending nearly thirty years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Hinton in 1985 was clocked in at work while a robbery committed elsewhere, and arrested after someone who had an ax to grind implicated him in that crime. Prosecutors then decided that the robbery similar to two unsolved murders and charged him with those crimes as well, with his state-appointed attorney providing scant defense, after complaining to Hinton about how little money he received from the state of Alabama for that representation. What comes through from the the story of Hinton's time on Death Row was how there's humanity possible in anything, how you respond to people is a choice. Fifty-four people were executed in his jail while he there and Hinton very much helped his fellow inmates, through the book club he formed as well as the simple act of acknowledging them, either during dark nights or by banging on the bars during executions, so someone would know they not alone, regardless of guilt or innocence.

The forward of the book was written by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who represents Death Row inmates and fights to abolish the death penalty, with it noted in the book both that we don't have the right to decide who should die, and people can be wrongly convicted, often due to poor representation as a result of not having money available for their defense, just like in Hinton's case. Hinton cites at the end that one out of every ten on Death Row are innocent, and Stevenson noted in a 2005 newspaper editorial that since 1975, there have been thirty-four executions and seven exonerations of Death Row prisoners, close to a one in five rate. Stevenson and Hinton met in 1999, with the state courts agreeing with the arguments of prosecutors and continually denying all appeals made on Hinton's behalf. Stevenson and Hinton then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and asked them to review whether adequate defense representation had been provided. The Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that that it had not been adequate and sent the case back to lower courts for review, with those courts agreeing with the Supreme Court and saying the case would have to be retried in Alabama. After first accusing Stevenson of stealing evidence that couldn't be found, the state declined to prosecute and dropping all charges, leading to Hinton's April 2015 release from prison.

The book is about a lot things, the horrible justice system in Alabama, the work of Bryan Stevenson, Hinton's attitude towards life and helping others, the support he received from Stevenson and his childhood friend who came to see him at virtually every visiting day over the thirty years, and the notion that people "shouldn't get used to injustice." Just as much as these other things, though, the book about this idea of whether the courts should be able to sentence people to death, with the closing of the book that "the death penalty is broken, and you are either part of the death squad or banging on the bars. Choose."

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain was a solid book subtitled The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Cain covers how extroverts are held up as the way someone supposed to be, but that gives short shrift to what introverts, as a sizable portion of the population, contribute and the skills an introvert posses can be ones that an extrovert might likely not have, ones around listening, not being rattled, and being able to focus.

Its noted in the book how introverts can speak publicly, and will typically be most successful doing so on things that are important to them, and that we shouldn't build our workplaces and homes simply around extroverts. For an extroverted parent of an introverted child, care should be taken to both understand that the child different than themselves and to help in planning for interactions and big social encounters. The book is a bit slow at times, but has interesting ideas to it.