No Relief for Former Death Row Inmate

The Houston attorney who helped free longtime death row inmate Anthony Graves can't believe the latest blow being dealt to him. Graves was to receive a 250 dollar speaking fee recently, but the state said no. Bill Stamps has more.

Anthony Graves' team
Attorney and professor Nicole Casarez of the University of St Thomas, Graves, attorneys Katherine Scardino and Jimmy Phillips soon after his release in October of 2010.

Attorney and University of St. Thomas professor Nicole Caserez worked for 8 years to free former death row inmate Anthony Graves. She couldn’t believe the wording of a document was enough to keep Graves from getting state money he’s entitled to for the wrongful conviction, and now she’s even more frustrated that Graves can’t even keep money he gets from telling his story.

"He’s wrongfully convicted and he’s wrongfully incarcerated and he goes to tell his story and then the state takes the money that he was to receive for making that speech. So not only did they wrongfully convict him, but they get the payment for the speech that he gives about it."

Caserez believes there are people to blame in Graves’ wrongful conviction, but she says the problems he’s facing now that he’s free aren’t necessarily anyone’s fault. The names of death row inmates are placed into the child support system all the time.

"We don’t expect that people who are death row will ever be released, so the state doesn’t really expect to get those payments, but in Anthony’s case he was released. And so now the debt comes due. And it’s just something that our system doesn’t foresee."

Graves is supposed to be compensated up to 80-thousand dollars for each year he was in prison. But the prosecutor mistakenly didn’t write the words actual innocence in the paperwork that set Graves free. You would think it would be simple to change the paperwork, but it’s not. Caserez says Graves could also get his child support payments forgiven, but again the original paperwork has to say innocent.

"Everyone wants to help, but no one says they can. No one says they have the power or the ability."

If Caserez can get someone, whether it be the governor, attorney general, or a judge to give her something official that says Anthony Graves is innocent, then by law he could get the money he’s owed and be relieved of those child support payments.

So far that hasn’t happened.

Graves is working and moving on with his life as they wait for a hearing date to be set in Austin.