Exonerated Texas Man Wants Court to Proclaim His Innocence

A wrongly convicted man denied state compensation for the 18 years he spent behind bars hopes a court order will change that. As Wendy Siegle reports, Anthony Graves and his attorneys have filed a lawsuit asking a Travis County court to proclaim his innocence.

Graves was released from prison last year after almost two decades behind bars for six murders in 1992 that prosecutors now say he could not have committed. Earlier this month, State Comptroller Susan Combs denied his claim to compensation under the Tim Cole Act that pays people who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. She said his application was missing the words "actual innocence". Jeff Blackburn is Graves' attorney.

"The truth is, the Tim Cole Compensation Act, as revised last legislative session is a very new law and it is difficult for agencies like the Comptroller's office sometimes to apply and interpret a new law. I will tell you that we believe the Comptroller's office made an honest mistake in not paying Anthony Graves."

Blackburn says the lawsuit asks a state district court in Travis County to apply the Texas Constitution to the Graves case and proclaim him innocent in a way that satisfies the Comptroller's office.

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"Unlike many other states, you have a right to be free from damage done to your reputation. And in Texas, we say only a court can fix that kind of problem, and that's what we're going to do. That's why we're using the Texas Constitution and we're using this particular form called the declaratory judgment lawsuit to get it done."

Under the Tim Cole Act, Graves could be compensated up to about $80,000 a year for every year he was behind bars, for a total of about $1.5 million dollars. Graves, who's now 45 years old and starts a new job this week, says he simply wants to get on with his life.

"One way I can do that is to put this behind me. So, once the compensation thing has been finalized, then I can take the next step. Right now, I'm just mired in this whole compensation thing. So, I'm hopeful and I'm thinking it's going to get done the way my attorneys have presented it. I just want to move on."

Governor Rick Perry has pledged his support in helping Graves clear his name and be compensated.