Texas Death Row Prisoner Anthony Graves is Nation’s 139th Exoneree!
The state of Texas exonerated death row prisoner Anthony Graves on Thursday. He was wrongfully convicted of murdering a family of six in Somerville, Texas 18 years ago and sentenced to death. Robert Carter, who was executed for the crime in 2000, initially named Graves as an accomplice. However, Carter later repudiated his earlier statement repeatedly, including just minutes before his execution. Carter confessed that he had “lied on” Graves, and that Graves had not been involved in the crime. There was no evidence linking Graves to the murders or the arson, and he insisted consistently that he was innocent.
Graves is now one of 139 exonerees released from death rows nationally in the U.S. since 1973 who have been cleared. Thanks to the dogged investigation of students in the University of Houston Law Center Texas Innocence Network, and an article in Texas Monthly about the case, prosecutors conducted their own investigation and concluded that Graves was innocent. They filed a motion to dismiss the charges and Anthony Graves was released from Burleson County Jail. The District Attorney filing the motion, Bill Parham said, “He’s an innocent man… There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime. I did what I did because that’s the right thing to do.” Parham’s office spent five months investigating the case.
PBS Frontline Investigative Series Launches 29th Season with Documentary about the Willingham Case
As the Texas Forensic Science Commission and the state’s criminal appeals and district court grapple with the issue of whether the fire that burned down executed death row prisoner Cameron Todd Willingham’s house was caused by arson or not, the award-winning PBS investigative series Frontline featured a documentary on the case, entitled “Death by Fire.” New York Times reviewer Mike Hale called it “tasteful muckraking.” NCADP Executive Director Diann Rust-Tierney writes in the Huffington Post that the documentary is a riveting account of how poorly investigated and analyzed forensic “evidence” may have sent an innocent man to his death. Additionally, she notes that the issue of wrongful arson convictions is becoming more well known: two highly rated NBC television crime dramas have featured stories with Willingham-like plots.
Meanwhile, the Texas Forensic Science Commission is continuing its work to investigate the validity of the science that formed the basis for Willingham’s conviction and death sentence.”
In addition, Henry “Hank” Skinner is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to have 10-year-old DNA evidence tested that he says would prove him innocent of murdering his former girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons. The state has refused Skinner’s request. The appeal was filed under the Civil Rights Act; Skinner’s attorney Ron Owen recently discussed this development in a Texas Tribune interview.
Troy Davis’ Attorneys Should Again Appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court
In another highly publicized case of innocence, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore, Jr., who presided over Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis’ evidentiary hearing, has ruled that Davis’ attorneys should appeal the decision that Davis failed to prove his innocence during the hearing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than the federal U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Moore had ruled that Davis is not entitled to a new trial. Last year the high court ruled that Davis could have an evidentiary hearing in order to present new evidence that would demonstrate that he did not murder Savannah off duty police officer Mark McPhail. The hearing was held this summer.
“Death Is Not The Answer”
That was the refrain spoken by Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Elie Wiesel, who discussed his opposition to the death penalty at a recent college lecture in Connecticut. “I know the pain of those who survive,” Wiesel told the audience. “Believe me, I know.”
Stars of New Film “Conviction” Speak Out Against Death Penalty, Wrongful Imprisonment
A feature film released this month entitled “Conviction” is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, whose brother Kenneth was wrongfully convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison. Waters, who had a high school equivalency certificate, put herself through law school in order to become an attorney and exonerate her brother. The film focuses on Betty Anne Waters’ dogged and tireless determination to free her brother, and the role that the New York-based Innocence Project played in her effort. The Innocence Project has also helped to exonerate hundreds of wrongly convicted prisoners, many of whom were among the 17 death row prisoners exonerated through DNA testing.
Actresses Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver, star and co-star respectively of “Conviction,” told a London news conference held before the film opened there that they oppose the death penalty. The fact that wrongfully convicted individuals can be imprisoned and executed, said Swank, “is injustice at its greatest.” Driver, who is British, noted that her country abolished the death penalty years ago.
Ohioans to Stop Executions fundraising dinner, honoring the work of former death row prisoner Kevin Keith’s legal team, the Ohio Public Defender’s death penalty division for its work on behalf of death row prisoners, and the Ohio Innocence Project, for its work to advocate passage of SB 77, a new law for preventing wrongful convictions. November 10, Kings Island Resort and Conference Center, Mason, Ohio. Sister Helen Prejean will be the keynote speaker. For ticket and sponsorship information, contact Kevin Werner at 614-560-0654.
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty is organizing The Kairos Conference: Discerning Justice & Taking Action on America’s Death Penalty, November 16 – 17, 2010, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Attend the first national interfaith conference on religious action against capital punishment in the U.S. in the 21st Century! Visit PFADP’s website for more information.
NCADP Annual Conference, January 13 – 16, 2011, Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Chicago, Illinois. Register and get details at www.ncadp.org/Conference2011.
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