Righting an Injustice

Just a few days after Anthony Graves was freed from Texas Death Row, it is still sinking in for the team that was partly responsible for his release. University of St. Thomas Professor Nicole Casarez calls it the greatest triumph in her career. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Anthony Graves' team
Professor Nicole Casarez of the University of St Thomas, Graves, his attorneys Katherine Scardino and Jimmy Phillips

The effort to help win freedom for 45 year old Anthony Graves took 8 years. He was sent to death row after being convicted for his involvement in the 1992 murder of a woman, her teenage daughter, and her four grandchildren.

It began when Graves wrote to the Texas Innocence Project, founded by UH law professor David Dow. He asked for volunteers among his law students and investigative journalism students from the University of St. Thomas, taught by lawyer and Professor Nicole Casarez.

"The first thing that you have to do in a case like this is figure out what evidence convicted the inmate. What was presented at trial? So one of the first things we did was — Anthony was represented at the time by Roy Greenwood  in Austin — and we drove to Mr. Greenwood's house. He very nicely let us sit around his dining room table, and we went through Anthony's trial transcripts. That's how we got the basic facts of the evidence that had convicted him."

But the trump card she thought would eventually work in Graves' favor was co-defendant Robert Carter.

"Robert Carter was executed in 2000, and his last words were that Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it, 'I lied on him in court.' And, that's a pretty affecting statement I think."

After that, the case went through years and a series of hearings before Graves was told last Wednesday that prosecutors were not going to retry him.

"The students who were involved in this case, I think had their eyes opened to the fact that the criminal justice system does have flaws, like any human enterprise. Mistakes will be made. It's unfortunate that it took such a long time for the state to admit that these mistakes were made So on the one hand they come away with it, knowing that the criminal justice system isn't perfect, and I believe that they have learned also, that when you believe in something, you keep working for it. Sometimes miracles do happen."

PH: "What do you take away from this experience?"

Casarez : "I take enormous satisfaction in having played some part in writing an injustice. I certainly have a life long friend in Anthony Graves, and I look forward to being able to watch him build a new life for himself."

Casarez says she doesn't know if she would be spending time on another case like Anthony Graves, adding she needs much needed rest.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...