Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly: Update on Anthony Graves

by Rachel Davis
Editor, Women in Crime Ink

The story of Anthony Graves, an innocent man who spent 18 years in prison for murders he did not commit, has been featured many times on Women in Crime Ink by defense attorney and regular contributor Katherine ScardinoIn 1994, Anthony Graves was wrongfully convicted of capital murder in a small Texas town.

Eighteen long years later, the charges against him were dismissed and he was released as a free man. Despite the fact that no amount of money can replace nearly two decades of an innocent man's life, Anthony Graves certainly deserved compensation from the State of Texas for his wrongful imprisonment. Unfortunately, the Texas comptroller denied Anthony's claim for compensation based on a technicality in the order of dismissal for his case. Now, a change has finally come and Graves will get the $1.4 million dollars owed to him for the years of his life that were lost.

Last Friday, June 17, 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a bill that helps ensure exonerated individuals, like Anthony Graves, will receive compensation from the state for time spent wrongfully imprisoned. HB 417 will effectively close the loophole allowing for denial of compensation claims based on technicalities, such as the one in Anthony's case, where the lack of the words "actual innocence" from his dismissal order precluded him from receiving compensation.

This amendment to Texas compensation laws will allow exonerees to receive $80,000 for every year they were wrongfully imprisoned, provided that they are granted relief in accordance with a writ of habeas corpus (or a demand for proof of evidence of a crime), that the charges against them are dismissed, and that the dismissal is based on an affidavit from the prosecutor that they believe the person to be innocent. The law also allows for exonerees the option to enroll in healthcare coverage provided by the Texas department of criminal justice at the same cost an employee of the TDCJ would pay.

Although the wheels of justice turn slowly, the State of Texas has finally done its part, as required by law, to compensate Anthony Graves for his wrongful imprisonment. Hopefully, this law will also allow for retribution to other exonerees with legitimate claims to compensation.

But as time passes and the story of Anthony Graves' horrific journey to and from death row slowly fades out of the media limelight, let us not forget that Anthony is not the only person to be wrongfully convicted, but is one of the lucky ones whose freedom was restored. No amount of compensation will ever return to Anthony those 18 years.


Anonymous said...

Good job Rachel. Use spell check next time. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the Texas governor for doing this. The amount is on the low side but it's a start - and the included health care packet is a great idea. As far as the specific case goes society owes mr. Graves a life of leisure for what was done to him - he should not have a single financial worry ever again.

Now maybe it's time for Texas to consider turning down the pace on death row a bit since they have now officially admitted the possibilities that errors might happen. After all it's kinda hard to undo a wrongful conviction if the victim has been executed.

A Voice of Sanity said...


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