Sunday, October 31, 2010

Texas Death Row Inmate Released: "He's an Innocent Man"

Anthony Graves spent 18 years in prison. A significant portion of that time was spent on Texas' death row. He is now a free man.

A federal court had granted him a new trial. According to the Houston Chronicle, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction in 2006. A three-judge panel said he deserved a new trial after ruling that prosecutors elicited false statements from two witnesses and withheld two statements that could have had an impact jurors.

Recently, prosecutors decided not to re-try Graves. The district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, Bill Parham, gave Graves his release. "He's an innocent man," Parham said, noting that his office investigated the case for five months. "There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime. I did what I did because that's the right thing to do," reported the Chronicle.

According to the Chronicle, Graves was convicted of assisting Robert Earl Carter in the slaying of Bobbie Davis, 45; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and Davis' four grandchildren, ages 4 to 9, on August 18, 1992. Carter was executed in 2000. Two weeks before his death, he provided a sworn statement saying that his naming of Graves as an accomplice was a lie.

He repeated the statement while strapped to the gurney minutes before his death: "Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. ... I lied on him in court."

Charles Sebesta, then the district attorney, did not believe Carter. According to the Chronicle, even after he no longer held the post, Sebesta held to his beliefs, calling Graves "cold-blooded" and taking out an ad in two Burleson County newspapers in 2009 to dispute media reports criticizing the conduct of prosecutors.

According to the Chronicle, the evidence against Graves was never overwhelming, depending mostly on Carter's earlier accusation and jailhouse statements purportedly overheard by law enforcement officers. Even Sebesta acknowledged it was not his strongest case.

"I've had some slam-dunk cases," Sebesta said in 2001. "It was not a slam-dunk case."

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