When people spend years behind bars for crimes they did not commit, it can break them. Even if they are exonerated, the loss of so many years can be hard to bear.
But some former inmates who are exonerated go on to live meaningful lives and work to change the flawed system. One former death row inmate in Texas has been given a position on a crime lab’s board of directors, a position that will help him prevent the kind of wrongful convictions that he fell foul of.
Anthony Graves, 49, was sent to death row for the 1992 slayings of six people. He had his conviction reversed in 2006 and was released from prison in 2010. He has been telling his story ever since in an effort to change the criminal justice system and was recently made a member of the Houston Forensic Science Center’s board of directors to help the city prevent future wrongful convictions.
“The simple fact that he was being considered for the job was another form of vindication for Graves, who was exonerated in the murders of six people and released from a Texas prison five years ago,” reported ABC News.
“I was excited about the opportunity because it lines up with the work I already do,” Graves, 49, told NBC News.
Graves’ appointment was submitted by Houston Mayor Anise Parker. It became official when the Houston City Council voted to put him on the nine-member board, which replaced the discredited Houston Crime Lab.
“Because I was wrongfully convicted, and I know how the system failed, this appointment allows me to bring a fresh perspective to the board, because I can tell you about the pitfalls,” Graves said in the NBC report.
When Graves was 26, he was arrested for the murder of 45-year-old Bobbie Davis, her adult daughter, and her four grandchildren, in Summerville in 1992. Robert Earl Carter, a co-defendant, was executed in 2000. Shortly before his death, he submitted a sworn statement saying he had lied when he said Graves had helped him kill the family.
Graves’ story is frightening because an innocent man came close to losing his life. He spent 18 years in prison and was given an execution date on two occasions. The state said it wanted to re-try him, but the case fell apart, and in 2010 Graves was finally released. He has since campaigned for better conditions in prisons and for improvements in the criminal justice system.
The Houston Forensic Science Center, a government non-profit, is unusual in its makeup. It is insulated from the city’s police department and City Hall, and its board includes Texans who have been cleared of violent crimes.
Graves replaced Anthony Robinson on the board. Robinson was pardoned in 2000 by then-Gov. George W. Bush after he spent 10 years behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit. Robinson went on to earn a law degree and later became a business man.
Since 1989 Texas has recorded more than 130 exonerations, according to the Texas Tribune. Only New York and California have had more exonerations.