Ex-inmate hails 'second chance' after years in prison

DETROIT (AP) - A 65-year-old Michigan man who was granted clemency after serving 45 years in prison for murder says everyone is capable of redemption.

Abner Hines, who is black, and four other men robbed a store in 1974. All of them were armed, and one of the other men shot and killed the store owner. Under state law at the time, all five were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

"When you're poor and especially black, nobody ever talks about a second chance for you," he told the Detroit News. "They talk about throwing you away and throwing away the key."

The state parole board in a September 2018 letter told Gov. Rick Snyder that based on a careful review of evidence, Hines "is not a risk to the public safety." Snyder in December went on to shorten the sentences or pardon the crimes of more than 50 people, including Hines, before leaving office.

"Although I did not pull the trigger, I recognize that my actions and my behavior (were) equally responsible for a human being losing his life because I participated in that robbery," Hines said. "I'm awfully sorry for what I did that evening, and I regret it wholeheartedly."

Hines earned his GED and a bachelor's degree in business administration while he was behind bars. He now works as an administrative assistant for his sister, who runs a medical staffing firm and plans to pursue a master's degree in computer technology.

He said freedom hasn't been entirely easy.

"When you do the kind of time I've done, there's always a concept that you'll walk out of prison and function normally again. That's not true," he said.

He said the speed and noise of traffic made him anxious, as did seemingly simple tasks like choosing a meal from a menu.

"I'm 65, but I'm a baby out here now," he said. "It's a different world."

Published: Tue, Aug 27, 2019