(KRLD/CBSDFW.COM) – An innocent man who spent 18 years in prison is being denied state compensation because of a technicality.
Anthony Graves was sent to death row after being convicted of slaughtering a Burleson County family of six back in 1992.
“It was just hell, because for years you scream at the top of your lungs, ya know, that this is a mistake and that you’re innocent and nobody listens,” Graves said frustrated.
Graves conviction was overturned due to lack of evidence but not before he spent more than 12 years on death row and then another four years in the Burleson County Jail waiting for a retrial – that never came.
A special prosecutor actually had to step in and clear Graves of any wrongdoing.
“The DA and special prosecutor had press conferences where they said ‘He is innocent. It’s not that we just didn’t have enough evidence, it’s that there is no evidence’,” Graves attorney, Nicole Casarez, said of the states actions.
And that’s the problem. The court order that the county prosecutor issued to release Graves doesn’t say the words “actual innocence”, as required by the state. The order only says there is no evidence to convict. Because of that, the State Comptroller’s office is refusing to pay Graves the $1.4 in compensation the state owes him.
Casarez says changing the wording on the court order isn’t as easy as one might think. “At this point once the judge dismissed the charges he lost jurisdiction. There is no case. The case doesn’t exist anymore.”
Kelly Siegler, the special prosecutor who recommended dropping the charges against Graves, said the compensation law likely was designed for cases involving wrongful DNA convictions, not ones thrown out by prosecutors after a re-examination of evidence.
The circumstances do little to comfort Graves. “It’s disappointing, because to me that means I have to continuously fight the state for justice and that means the compensation that is due to me because of the injustice that was done over a period of 18 years,” he said.
The only evidence that ever tied Graves to the murders came from his co-defendant, Robert Earl Carter, who absolved Graves shortly before he was executed 10 years ago.
Last week Governor Perry vowed to step up and help Graves get the justice he deserves. Perry told reporters in Galveston that he would intervene on Graves behalf, either through the legislature or directly through the Comptrollers office.
Although Graves says he is grateful for any assistance, it’s seems almost too little too late. “There’s no money that an ever amount up to losing 18 years of my life and being threatened to be murdered everyday,” he said. “Nothing could ever, ever make up for that. I want to receive justice so that I can put my life together and move forward.”
Under the Tim Cole Compensation Act, named for a wrongly convicted Fort Worth man, those falsely imprisoned are entitled to $80,000 for each year of confinement.
Update – March 1, 2011: Anthony Graves spoke with 1080 KRLD about the latest developments in his quest to receive compensation from the State of Texas.