A bill closing loopholes in Texas’ exoneree compensation bill passed the state legislature last week and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Rick Perry. The amended bill will ensure that exonerees aren’t denied compensation based on technicalities, lawmakers said.
Anthony Graves spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and should be eligible for $80,000 per year served, said Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, who is also the Innocence Project Board Chair. Graves was denied under the current law, however, because Texas Comptroller Susan Combs did not see the words “actual innocence” in the document that ordered his release.
The new law will ensure that exonerees can be compensated if they have been “granted relief in accordance with a writ of habeas corpus (a demand to show evidence of a crime) and an affidavit from a prosecutor stating the dismissal was based on actual innocence.” In February, Gov. Perry called Graves’ capital murder conviction “a great miscarriage of justice” and said he would help him gain state compensation, reported the Houston Chronicle.
“I’m glad that they put together a piece of legislation that will allow them to compensate me for the wrongdoing,” Graves said. “But as of right now nothing has been done. I’m optimistic it will be done. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
In 2006, Graves’ conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial. This past October prosecutors became convinced of his innocence and dropped the charges.
Graves wants more than compensation for the years he was behind bars; he also wants his name cleared with a declaration of innocence.
“You stole 18 years of my life,” he said. “Just do the right thing.”