By Shannon Sampson
SAN MARCOS — Anthony Graves, previously known to the state of Texas as “Death Row Exoneree 138”, spent 18 and a half years in prison– 16 of those spent in solitary confinement– for a crime he knew nothing about. It wasn’t until 2010 that he was finally released from prison.
Graves heard from a family member that the police were looking for him, so he headed to the local police department under the impression that he was in trouble for a traffic ticket, only to be informed that he had been named as an accomplice for the murder of six people.
The only evidence of Graves being involved in the murder was a statement from the suspect, Robert Carter, claiming Graves assisted in the murders.
Grave’s wife, mother and son were brought to the stand to testify on his behalf, but to no avail. The prosecutor had already decided that Graves was guilty. “They didn’t just sentence me to death…it touch[ed] [my] entire family,” said Graves. “Society treated my family bad because they thought they had raised a killer.”
Before his execution in 2000, Carter wrote a letter revealing Graves’ innocence and why Carter chose Graves as his accomplice. Despite the deathbed confession, Graves remained in prison — on death row — for 10 more years. “At 45 years old… after 18 and a half years, I walked out of the jail and all I owned was a little box,” said Graves.
Graves says getting involved with city elections is the only way to prevent similar situations from happening. “If you don’t make at least $150,000 in this country, you are not exempt from the death penalty… you are prone to it,” said Graves. “We elect officials… they work for us… we can go to their office and tell them how we really feel… hold them accountable… if you want to make a difference, get involved.”
While he was in prison, Graves would call his mother and ask what she was cooking. He usually wouldn’t let her tell him. Graves didn’t want to know because “I was eating hotdogs.” On the day he was released from prison, his first phone call was to his mom. “Say, what you cookin’ tonight? Can you put something on? ‘Cause I’m on my way.”
Audio via Common Experience.
Featured image by Aaron J. Derton.