After a family of six was murdered in 1992, investigators refused to believe that the admitted murderer, Robert Carter, acted alone. Investigators pressed Carter to divulge the name of his supposed accomplice, and he eventually implicated Anthony Graves. Before testifying against Graves in court, Carter privately recanted his story, so the prosecution decided to cut a deal: If Carter testified, the prosecution would not ask about his wife’s involvement. Carter acquiesced.

Furthermore, when Graves’s girlfriend was about to testify that Graves had spent the entire night of the murder at home with her, the prosecutor made a veiled threat that if she did testify, she too might be implicated in the murder. At the last minute she decided not to testify. “They put him in jail […] on nothing,” she said, “what’s to stop them from putting me in jail on nothing?”

The prosecution, of course, failed to divulge any of this information to the defense. Graves was found guilty and was sentenced to death.

While he was awaiting execution on death row, Robert Carter repeatedly told fellow prisoners that Anthony Graves played no part in the murder. Furthermore, moments before being executed in 2000, Carter said as his final statement, “It was me and me alone. Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it. I lied on him in court.”

Despite this information, Graves hopelessly remained on death row until a group of journalism students at St. Thomas University began investigating the case: “We weren’t out to prove anyone innocent. That was not our goal. Our goal was just to find out the truth.” Over time, these students began to reveal the prosecution’s unorthodox methods, and soon the case against Graves crumbled. Due in large part to these revelations, Graves’s case was eventually reversed by an appellate court.

After he was freed from death row, however, Graves had to spend the next four years in jail awaiting his retrial. The new prosecutor, with a 19-0 record in her previous death penalty cases, eventually met with Graves’s defense team and told them that she had no evidence that Graves was even remotely involved in the murder, and that she was dropping the charges: “This guy’s innocent – not just not guilty, but innocent.”

Texas stole 18 prime years of a man’s life and destroyed his family’s reputation. “I wanted people to know that my mother didn’t raise a murderer. My mother raised a good son. That meant something to me.” Texas also came tantalizingly close to executing an innocent man. At the very least this case demonstrates that with our current system, mistakes still happen – our system is clearly flawed, and when the stakes are so high that lives hang in the balance, a flawed system is unacceptable.

Today Anthony Graves has become an advocate for justice. He speaks worldwide about his case and others like it. ”My experience was hell,” Graves says. “I always liken it to something that you would consider to be your worst nightmare. I had to go through that experience every day for 18-and-a-half years and it was just no way to live.”

17 Comments

  1. Anthony,

    I am sorry to hear that 18 years of your life was taken from you for a crime you never committed. I am thankful that you were able to get exxonerated. More and more we are hearing stories of people who were wrongfully convicted, even when there was evidence proving their innocence. All these wrongful convictions proves to me more and more how broke the justice system is. Please contact me, we’d love to hear more about your story and share our story of IRP6 and the injustice done to them.

    Lorna

  2. Hello! My name is Rebecca and I am half Swedish, half Swiss (I know, many americans does not know the difference, but it does not matter). I have been interested in the justice system in the U.S for a while now and the more I read, the more it amazes me. Many Europeans consider the U.S to be a country in need of some serious changes (concerning your educational system but also concerning you social system. The fact that ObamaCare creates so much anxiety and hatred is to me a sign of ignorance and lack of education) especially regarding your justice system. I do not believe in capital punishment because of many reasons:

    1. Because of people like Anthony Graves. But not only have innocent people been sentenced to death, innocent people have been killed by the state. It should have been enough with one man being killed although he is innocent in order for the state to abolish capital punishment.
    2. Statistics. The U.S has got one of the highest crime rates in the world. Obviously, the death penalty is not effective.
    3. Morals. How can you take another human beings life (innocent or not, it is irrelevant) and at the same time, claim that it is wrong to kill. This thinking is not logical to me and I found it so hard to understand that the american population does not realize how illogical it actually is (poor education perhaps?).
    4. Human values. Being a psychologist, I find it reasonable to divide people in to two categories, mentally ill people and the rest. From what I understand, convicted death row inmates that are mentally ill cannot be executed as stated in the law (although I regularly read that people with mental disorders do in fact get executed). Now, what about “the rest”?. I strongly believe that the situation makes the criminal. I do not believe in evil but as we have seen many, many times, there is a lot of evilness in the word. But the majority of the criminals on death row have a history of injustice (an injustice that would not be possible in Europe and I really want to emphasize, that the U.S should get down from their high horses and realize that they are not such a great country, but rather the opposite), comes from troublesome families and backgrounds, leading them on a path that would not have been possible with a strong social system. Leaving individuals with little money, low education and no prospect of life. Your society and your country have not taken their responsibility, namely taking care of all individuals in society.

    I am so sadden by this injustice in your country and I feel for people like Anthony Graves but also, for the HUMAN BEINGS on death row. Appeal after appeal only to end up dead, killed by the state. It is inhuman, not only the capital punishment itself but also, the whole process. I have seen so many documentaries and read so many blogs from inmates on death row, to see, that even if you believe that there are evil people, these people are not evil. After twenty-something years of contemplation, you will realize that you did wrong, which all of the inmates have (unless they are mentally ill, but then they are sick and that is a totally different issue!). But then the american government go ahead and kill these people. They are so driven by revenge that they can`t see that treatment and a strong social system and a forgiven society is the best solution for all parts. I mean, this should appeal to the american population, saving money instead of using this expensive method that is for nothing.

    I would like to end this with on a religious note. Never have I heard and seen so many people refer to god. Many inmates become religious in prison, yet have I never seen a justice system being so religiously incorrect. I am not religious, I believe in science and good education. All I am saying, that it is all hypocritical bullshit. I hope, that I will experience a better U.S in my lifetime.

    • Dear Rebecca:
      I was born and raised in Europe and moved to the US roughly ten years ago.
      I am living in Texas ever since and have studied the legal system with respect to capital punishment to the best of my abilities.
      The points that you raise are generally speaking valid, however one can’t compare the European values / culture with the American culture, let alone the Texan. I have reached a point in my research where I realized there are things people like you and me won’t be able to grasp. Imagine there are online forums full with posts of individuals who take great pleasure knowing that a man has been locked up in a cage for 10+ years under the worst imaginable conditions only to be put to death.
      You can’t reason with these kind of people. You just can’t…..

      • Wow, a grammar Nazi. Do you feel proud to pick on someone whose first language is not English? It’s okay to state what you don’t like about her comment. It’s not okay to be a bully.

    • Rebecca, For someone who claims to be highly educated, your grammar leaves a lot to be desired. “Has got”. Really? You’re sadden or you are saddened? It would seem that your education doesn’t quite stack up to my U.S. education since I can find mistake after mistake in your misinformed rant all the way to the last sentence. Secondly, if you honestly think that you can judge a whole country based on documentaries or what you read on the internet then you are sadly mistaken and downright childish in your naivety. Thirdly, how many Hitlers has my country had? Your continent has had many tyrants who abused and murdered it’s citizens by the millions and it was my country that often helped defeat them even though they were no threat to us here, while your citizens closed your eyes and did NOTHING and yet you are proud of that? It was just a few months ago that Americans witnessed one of your grand ole European citizens hacking a member of the military to death on your streets in broad daylight with a machete but yet you don’t believe in evil? Was that just a walk in the park on your continent? Here, we call that evil and we exterminate it so it can’t happen again, not sweep it under the rug and go have tea with the Queen. Anthony’s story is a very sad one, no one can dispute that, but the great thing about America is that we can admit when we have made a mistake and correct it and try to do better in the future. No system is perfect and mistakes will happen when there are humans involved. I personally do not believe in the death penalty and could never condemn someone to death but if others feel that they can justify an eye for an eye and still sleep at night then that is between them and God. The only important thing here is that Anthony was exonerated and the justice system gets a little bit better after having learned a very valuable lesson. How is your continent doing with that Amanda Knox situation by the way, because no one here believes there was enough evidence to convict her the first time much less a second time. Please do the U.S. a favor though and stay in your country where it actually might matter in the grand scheme of things that you are half Swedish and half Swiss.

      • Cheri unfortunately you couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to the “history” of this country. The United States has had many “dictators” all where known as presidents. You speak of Hitler as if what happened to African Americans never occurred, slaves were murdered, the men were castrated and hung then set on fire, the women and young girls were raped, how many families was destroyed during this time and to this day their children’s children are still suffering at the hands of the American justice system, so until you are willing to acknowledge and accept the wrongs done by this country don’t try and judge another. The prosecutor who was responsible for Anthony’s life forever being altered, this man has refused to, as you say admit he made a mistake, he is hell bent on continuing a lie in order to save face among his supporters. How many innocent people have been put to death in this country because some prosecutor wanted to make judge or be re-elected to office so he/she fabricated evidence or as in Mr. Graves case he/she withhold evidence of the defendant’s innocence from the defense attorney. Harris county could not afford to have Kelly Siegler as District Attorney, because she of her integrity, so she lost her bid for DA. The thing that saddens me about this case is the fact that it’s not an isolated incident, this is something that happens more than the public cares to admit. We need to fight for the laws to be changed, and pray that all of the innocent men and women who have been convicted, especially those on death row will be exonerated.

  3. I’m so thankful that I got to see you on last night 11/08/13 on the Katie Couric Show I would have no idea about your story. One thing I can say no one can bear the hurt and pain you had to endure but you kept your faith in God. It’s your seeds that had been planted so God came in to release your seeds for your season. You Anthony kept the faith the whole time never giving up. Sort of like Job, regards to what he endure with his health he never blame God. You never blame God that is why you got the unthinkable gift that is “Favor.” Favor of God who loves you more and unconditionally. God Bless and thanks for getting your story out here for people to see.

  4. Anthony,
    I feel compelled top look up everyting I can about Death Row…..which is how I found your story.As I started to read I realized you were talking about Texas. I continued reading and your story touched me in a way nothing has before. The reason I look up death row is because one of the five men that murdered my daughter reside on death row. I have struggled with his sentence for the past year. It is something the prosecutor went after with a vengeance. There is no doubt he murdered my daughter but I would prefer he had life without parole. Some may not understand this but it is how I feel. I’d like to speak with you. I’d like to begin writing letters or working with some organization that could help me get my daughter’s murderer off death row.
    I can’t believe I’m writing this but as I cry right this moment all I can say is by the grace of God.

    • Ms. Belinda,

      I just received your email, and am really touched by what you have shared. Please give my office a call at 713.210.2373 I would love to talk to you. God Bless.

      Anthony Graves

  5. Cheri, your response to Rebecca has me laughing so hard – thank you!!! First of all, English is not her first language so of course she is going to have some mistakes – how well do you speak her language? She likely speaks 3 languages possibly more.

    Sweden and Switzerland are not part of Germany, where Hitler was from. Nor is she from England where the soldier was beat up. Each country in Europe has their own government, laws etc. You wouldn’t dare say you have the same laws as Canada and Mexico though you are on the same continent!

    Sweden has the been voted to have the happiest people on earth because their government looks after their people so well. Their education system, healthcare system, long maternity leaves so moms can bond with their parents, which is obviously lacking in the U.S. No, I’m not from Sweden or Switzerland, I’m your neighbour to the North, thank god we don’t have your laws, healthcare etc!!

  6. We look forward to helping Anthony with his grievance against former District Attorney Charles Sebesta. We are inviting the public to the Martin Lurher King Center at TSU on Monday, January 20, 2104 at 3:00 pm to witness the filing of the grievance.
    Bob Bennett
    713-225-6000

  7. Hi my name is Regina and we have a radio ministry called Set The Captive host Apostle Sandra Hall, and Co -Host L. Blaylock, of Houston, Texas and we broadcast every Saturday night on 100.7 kkht FM and we are here so that those families who have someone who is incarcerated they can give a shout out. We were hoping that we can get Mr. Anthony Graves to come and be our guest on the radio station. Please email me at @ jeterevansregina@gmail.com.

  8. I come from Africa, where injustice has been the normal for time immemorial. I believe that it is madness attempting to right a wrong by killing a human being. It’s madness to give ourselves by denying others. We are mad and as such created mad systems, how do we expect to stop our social ills if we keep creating mean and inconsiderate social systems? What good does it do to me if those who killed my brother are executed? All I want is a guarantee that our social systems create love and support to empower all to live happily.

    All said, who finally has a write to execute those who oversaw the process that led to the death of an innocent person? Did those people not murder….even though under the over of law? Why would you cry over your sick loved one when you signed a paper that ended someone else’s loved one’s life? What helped me and you turn out into the non-murderers that we are? Does the next child have those conditions and support systems, or better one, including education, love, good prospects for a job and a decent income etc? Will they become murderers?

    Do unto others as you would want them to do to you. One of the benefits that Europe brought to Africa, while it failed to practice it, is Christianity. What do we learn from our bible concerning social justice, love and forgiveness? Does Jesus mean a thing to us?

  9. I am so glad you are free and hope u live your life to fullest. Enjoy being with family and friends and forgive. Forgive others for lacking the truth. God bless and protect. My prayers are with u and yours

    Celeste

  10. A little over a year ago, I began studying the death penalty in America. Prior to my research, I had been a staunch proponent of the death penalty. I then came across Anthony’s story, and many others like it, where it appeared an innocent man was either facing death, or had already been executed. Anthony’s story turned me from a pro capital punishment prick into an abolotionist. I hope one day, I can shake the hand of Anthony Graves and thank him for what he went through, because it was his story that saved me.

  11. I watched the story on 48 Hours and I was completely fascinated with the tactics that Mr. Sebesta used in order to draw a conviction against you. There are many unethical officials in the justice system. Your mom should be applauded for raising you to be a great man and instilling in you hope and faith in God. 18 years is a long time to hold on to a hope that seems so distant, but GOD IS ABLE & FAITHFUL! Btw, the students and Professor at the college of St. Thomas are pretty awesome. Smiles, live long and be well, Monique.

  12. Hello,

    I have been following your story from the moment you touched the ground with all of your belongings all rolled up into your white “cardboard” box, as you held onto as you walked out of Texas Prison. First, and foremost, I would like to say to you – glad you survived the horrific pain of solitary confinement for 18 1/2 years. I can’t even imagine what you endured during these dark days. Surprisingly, there are millions of others who are in your same predicament – many of which who are also innocent. I think as you stated in many of your interviews, they have simply lost the fight and faith. They no longer believe in the justice system, far it has failed them countless times. Thankfully, you continued to press forward on your mission of being free – never giving up and not wanting to be another statistic! Glad you never gave up!

    I have a loved one in the TDCJ, although he did not get the death penalty, but it is still a long stiff penalty, 60 years to be exact; he has severed 22 years and counting; he has to serve 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole and even then, it is not a guaranteed fact; as of today, he is 40 years of age. He too has endured solitary confinement on multiple occasions, one most recent while at the McConnell Unit – in Beeville, Texas, as he was confined for over two years. Not only do prosecutors falsify legal documents, so does TDCJ guards, which is what occurred with my loved one. To top it all off – my loved one has seizures and other medical issues that were all ignored while housed in solitary confinement. It is an inhumane place to be; a place that I would never wish on my worst enemy. I watched him cry, worry, and question if he would ever come home. Here’s the kicker in the entire brief history of my loved one, during the time of his lowest points while in solitary confinement, his best friends were “two mice” that he kept in his cell and played with – he even talked to us about them when we visited him. This is when I became worried, but had little to no control on how the system decided to house him. I was helpless and felt I too was doing the same time right next to my loved one. I constantly worried if he was hungry, sick, or still sane on my next visit. When he was unable to make store, he has to rely on them, as you described of being fed through a tiny hole where his food was slid to him, sometimes, his food was covered with maggots, flies, cold, distasteful, and other times he was passed by, never getting food at all. It was despicable and deplorable – no one should have to endure this sort of treatment! It is inhumane!

    The above story is still a horrible memory for me that I still revisit from time to time. If it would not have been for visitation to “pull him out” of that hole every other weekend, books to keep him focused, manipulatives, such as language arts, math, and history books, newspaper articles and other materials – he would have “completely” gone insane. Many days and nights he lay stagnant in his cell with no one to talk to or nothing else to do except interact with his mice, laugh at them, and feed them. Even though he had his reading materials it was still a horrific and painful memory because he was required to stay in his cell for 23 hours a day and 1 hour of this day, he showered. No recreational periods, other than once every three weeks for 1 hour of the day; then he was required to play in a steal cage alone with no one else – like “caged” animals. I could not believe this when he shared with me. Not to mention the tear gas they sprayed throughout the facility and my loved one suffered from shortness of breath (requiring an inhaler), seizures, and other issues related to medical complications. Whew, I know if it was me, I would not be able to endure as long as he or you had – I must say to the both of you; you are true soldiers – if not – warriors!

    There were multiple occasions my loved one fell to the concrete floor from his seizure episodes, but of course, no one ever heard him or visited his cell on a regular basis to check if he was okay; so therefore it still lies in the back of my mind what else did he endure while housed in TDCJ – solitary confinement; many times he could not even remember things, but I could tell through his handwritten letters home based on the structure of his writing and the connation of the letters, how he was. I also became a present person during this time in his life as well – visiting him twice a month – even though the travel was excruciating for me considering I am no longer a spring chicken, so to speak.

    Thankfully for my loved one – he had visits to help him surpass the time in solitary; however, there are many who do not get these luxuries. I met many people in my journey to visit the prison and discovered their loved ones had been in solitary lock up for over 10 or more years. This is a cruel and unjust system; so, therefore, I “highly” applaud your efforts in continuing to do the work you are doing – for the people who need you the most! In closing, I would love to partner with you – getting involved for the same mission of your journey; I have always been passionate in helping people through horrific situations such as these. I also knew my vision was either in education or criminal justice. I have not spent any time in prison; however, my loved has, and honestly, I feel as if I am also. By the way, I am an exceptional researcher and have a passion for innovative ideas and I would love to help you in your mission, on change. I am quite sure those guys in Livingston are praising you for your efforts – keep pushing for the sake of others and good of the cause. This mission one day may (in fact) help your children, as they are growing up to be young men in this unjust society. Keep hope alive, Anthony – there should be many others just like you – who are pushing and fighting for the cause as well, then maybe one day the policy makers can re-align the way of doing everyday business within the walls of Texas Department of Criminal Justice; a system that seems to be untouchable; Harris, Montgomery, Galveston county and all other entities that touch the lives of so many people across the globe.

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