Man saved from Death Row visits Texas Tech School of Law

Published: Apr. 29, 2015 at 12:13 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2015 at 12:29 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Tuesday, students at the Texas Tech School of Law heard from a man who did a lot of time for somebody else's crime.

He is death row exonoree #138, Anthony Graves.

Graves was wrongfully convicted of a 1992 capital murder of six people, including four children, in Somerville, Texas.

Another man, Robert Carter, named Graves for the murder. Carter was also sentenced to death and was executed in 2000. Before he died, he confessed to lying about Graves' involvement in the capital murder case.

Graves was cleared of the crime in 2010.

Now, after spending 18 and a half years behind bars, Graves is sharing his experience in an effort to help others.

He said for the entire experience from the arrest to being sentenced to death, he was in complete shock.

"It was surreal and I just wanted to wake up and realize that 'Ah, this is just a bad dream.' I didn't wake up until 18 and a half years later," Graves said.

He said his goal for every talk he gives is to shed light on the issue of lethal criminal justice reform.

"We're getting it wrong, we're actually executing innocent people," Graves said. "I don't care what you feel about the death penalty, but surely you don't want to execute anyone that's innocent, that's what we're doing. That's why I was given this story."

When asked about his thoughts on speaking in Lubbock, a city that wrongfully convicted Timothy Cole, a man who died in prison before his name was cleared, he said Lubbock was no different than many other cities that need change.

"There are a lot of Timothy Coles in the state of Texas and throughout. It's the main reason why I'm here, to let people know that," Graves said. "There are a lot of Timothy Cole, Anthony Graves, Todd Willingham, still back there waiting on someone."

Graves remains positive even after spending 6,640 days behind bars for a crime he never committed.

"I can be bitter, I can be angry and guess what, I'll still be in prison, even though I'm out here," Graves said. "I want my life back and the best way to do it, is to live it in a positive way and make positive change. Positive impacts and you take your life back."

And he never lost his sense of humor. Graves said after he was told the all of the charges against him were being dropped, he called his mom to let her know that he was finally going home a free man.

Shortly after, a press conference was being held, but he had to make a pit-stop. He said after spending more than 18 years in prison, all he wanted was some barbeque.

"Look, I hadn't eaten barbeque in a long time. Barbeque juices running all over my shirt," Graves said. "So, when I got there they had to take me to change my clothes because I had barbeque juice all over my shirt. It was delicious."

Graves said he is still adjusting even after being free for four years, and that he's trying to reconnect with his three sons and grandchildren.

He spent 16 out of 18 and a half years in solitary confinement.

When asked what he thought about during that time, he said, "When I get out I'm going to change the world."

Changing the world - something he said he is doing, one speech and one city at a time.

"My life has become bigger than just me," Graves said. "My life is now about a purpose and that purpose is to educate you about our lethal criminal justice reform. So that your child, so that your brother, so that your father, so that your mother don't have to experience what I had to experience for 18 and a half years."

Graves says though he was compensated through the Timothy Cole Act... the real prize is seeing the impact his story has on others' life.

Four years have passed since Graves was exonerated. To date there have been a total of 146 inmates exonerated from death row.

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