7.04.2011

Wrongfully convicted Texas man to be compensated $1.4 million

by Jesse Muhammad, Staff Writer for The Final Call Newspaper

(FinalCall.com) - On June 17, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed legislation that will allow a Texas man to receive $1.4 million for being wrongfully imprisoned for nearly two decades for the murders of six family members.

Forty-five-year-old Anthony Graves, a Black man residing in Austin, is grateful but told reporters that the money “doesn't even come close to making up for the time. I lost 18 years of my life. It wasn't like I hit the lottery.”

Mr. Graves became a suspect in the 1992 murder of two women and four children, who were brutally stabbed and set on fire in a home. Police were told by suspect Robert Earl Carter that he had teamed up with Mr. Graves to commit the horrendous act. Mr. Graves had always maintained his innocence and claimed he was at his home in Brenham, Texas with a relative when the crime happened in Somerville—100 miles north of Houston.

Mr. Carter was eventually executed in 2000 but prior to that he was documented stating that Mr. Graves did not have a role in the murders. “Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. … I lied on him in court,” said Mr. Carter, according to his last words as he laid on the gurney.

According to the Innocence Project, false confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of cases in the United States. Additionally, their research shows that more than half of states have compensation laws and about 60 percent of the exonerees have been compensated.

Mr. Graves also spent 10 of his years on death row. Since 1973, 138 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. On average, the exonerated prisoner spent nearly 10 years behind prison walls.

Mr. Graves was released last year from Burleson County Jail on Oct. 27 after a district attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. His freedom resulted from the work and research of the Texas Innocence Project.

Unfortunately, due to his exoneration order lacking the phrase “actual innocence,” he had been denied his right to the $80,000 for every year he was wrongly imprisoned—as required by a state law enacted in 2009 for exonerees.

In February, Mr. Graves' legal team filed a lawsuit on his behalf against Texas attorney general Greg Abbott to demand a proper declaratory judgment of innocence to ensure he's fully cleared.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

This story originally appeared in The Final Call Newspaper dated July 5, 2011. Original story online linkhttp://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_7951.shtml

Update: It was reported that Anthony Graves received his $1.4 million check on June 30, 2011 from the Texas Comptroller's Office. Congratulations to him and his family!