News 10.28.10

Texas Man Freed After Years on Death Row

Sixteen years after being convicted and sentenced to death for his involvement in the horrific murders of two women and four children in rural Sommerville, Texas, Anthony Graves was freed from prison yesterday years after evidence of his innocence surfaced.

Graves’ first stop in the free world was his mother’s house, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“I hugged him and I hugged him and I cried and we both cried and we hugged and we cried,” [she] said. “He said: ‘Mama, it’s over. Mama, 18 years we’ve fought this fight a long time. It’s over. Justice has been done for me.’ ”

The 62-year-old woman said she never doubted the innocence of Graves, the eldest of her five children.

“A mother knows her child,” she said. “I know what kind of person he was. He wasn’t that person they built him up to be.”

Graves became a suspect in 1992 when another man, Robert Earl Carter, told police that they committed the crime together. The family was stabbed, shot and bludgeoned with a hammer and their house doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Carter was also sentenced to death row and was executed in 2000. Three years earlier, Carter stated publicly and to state officials that Graves, in fact, did not have a role in the murders. He even maintained the sentiment minutes before his execution: “Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. … I lied on him in court.”

The evidence against Graves hinged primarily on Carter’s previous accusation and jailhouse statements claimed to be overheard by law enforcement officers. But Carter’s statements about Graves’ innocence didn’t matter to the district attorney Charles Sebesta, who even after he left the position, did not believe the claim.

Graves’ conviction was doubted over the years, prompting students from a University of St. Thomas journalism class (including

Chester Soria

, who now works at the Innocence Project) to work with the Texas Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law School to review all of the details of the case. Finally, in 2006, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction and said he deserved a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct.

On Wednesday, the reigning district attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges that sent Graves to death row.


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