Criminal Justice

Texas Declines Compensation for Wrongly Convicted Man Who Spent 18 Years on Death Row

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I first wrote about the Anthony Graves case last October. He was released after 18 years on death row. He was convicted of helping Robert Earl Carter kill six people in 1992. Graves was convicted based on testimony from Carter (which Cater later recanted) and police officers who claimed to have overheard jailhouse chatter implicating Graves.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which initially granted Graves a new trial, went out of its way to point out the prosecutorial misconduct of then-DA Charles Sebasta, including withholding exculpatory evidence and knowingly putting on false evidence.

Bill Parham, the DA for Washington and Burleson counties and the man who dropped the charges against Graves, told the Houston Chronicle last year: "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."

Unfortunately, the court order allowing Graves to be released didn't include the word "innocent", a word usually reserved for DNA exonerations. Under Texas law, that means Graves is ineligible for compensation for a wrongful conviction.

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  1. Ouch, my testicles…

  2. I saw a TX prosecutor on TV a decade or so back who kept arguing against reopening a case where there were VERY strong reasons to suspect that the wrong guy was convicted. Her argument was “closure for the families, and for the DA”. Chilling.

  3. For the love of Jesus. Eighteen years! Misconduct!

    It’s this toleration of tyranny that so rankles. Can we hire some Egyptian protesters for Texas?

    1. Not unless you like pretty TV reporters getting gang-raped. Just heard about Lara Logan of CBS News. Always liked her, so very sad.

      1. Ugh, how terrible!

  4. The least they should give him is a raincheck to kill 6 people

    1. Don’t do the time if you can’t do the crime.

      1. I see what you did there.

    2. The last thing they should want to give him is a reason to kill people, which looks like is happening.

  5. Unfortunately, the court order allowing Graves to be released didn’t include the word “innocent”, a word usually reserved for DNA exonerations.

    The judge can fix that with the stroke of a pen – issue an amended order. Sounds like the DA would be on board with that, so I don’t see why not.

  6. Wait a minute. An entity of The State’s judicial system (the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit) and one of The State’s agents (Bill Parham, the DA for Washington and Burleson counties and the man who dropped the charges against Graves) did the right thing, but a semantic error will prevent Graves from seeking and receiving reparations? If this Graves injustice is not corrected, then indignant and righteous libertarians from across the nation should create a fund and solicit donations to remedy the error. Am I right? How much will you give?

    1. Also what RC said.

    2. Wait, so to prove their outrage is legitimate, libertarians should spend their own money to compensate people wronged by the government?

      Points for novelty, I guess.

      1. Yes, I’m curious to learn how it’s the fault of libertarians that the government has acted tyrannically. They owe the guy. Not just for locking him up, but for violating the rules in doing so.

        1. Maybe what was meant was that libertarians should devote resources to “petition a redress of grievances”.

        2. it’s the fault of libertarians that the government has acted tyrannically

          I didn’t say it was libertarians’ fault. But instead of bitching on a blog about the (alleged) injustice, libertarians can do what the government might not do: take up donations for a compensation fund.

          1. If I gave a penny every time the government wronged someone I’d be flat fucking broke in about 7 minutes.

            I don’t think helping the guy out is a bad idea at all, but I’m afraid it just isn’t feasible for everyone.

            1. Choose your causes and act accordingly.

          2. Oh, now I get it. Because Libertarians prefer private sector solutions, we are discredited when we don’t get the private sector to compensate an individual for damages inflicted on him by the public sector.

            Also: Somalia!

      2. Outrage is fine, but absent the government’s making it right, what’s wrong with private donations going to the aggrieved? Nothing proves integrity and moral conviction like putting your money where your mouth is. A worthy project for somebody with time and energy.

        1. Great – take it on.

      3. Well, it’s not like the people who wronged him are going to pay, even if “the government” makes reparations.

      4. Isn’t it the first principle of libertarianism is that “government money” is stolen from the taxpayers? When you say that “unfortunately” Mr. Graves will not be compensated, you’re saying you wish the State of Texas would steal from Tezas taxpayers at gunpoint just to pay Graves. What else is the State of Texas supposed to compensate Graves with, hugs?

        The true libertarian position is that Graves is a parasite who got free room and board from the taxpayers for 18 years, and he needs to start paying them back.

  7. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which initially granted Graves a new trial, went out of its way to point out the prosecutorial misconduct of then-DA Charles Sebasta, including withholding exculpatory evidence and knowingly putting on false evidence.

    Unfortunately, the court order allowing Graves to be released didn’t include the word “innocent”, a word usually reserved for DNA exonerations. Under Texas law, that means Graves is ineligible for compensation for a wrongful conviction.

    It’s a legal system, not a justice system.

    1. Nice rhetorical trick. How would you make it better?

      1. Ending qualified immunity for cops and prosecutors would be a good beginning.

        1. Agree wholeheartedly.

        2. prosecutors don’t get qualified immunity. they get absolute immunity. cops get qualified immunity.

      2. End the government monopoly of the court system and move to a privatized method of dispute resolution.

        1. Nice. Competing gangs. Count me out.

          1. Better to have one “gang” that has unlimited guns, absolute moral authority and zero accountability.

            1. You exaggerate and misstate reality. Weaponry is not “unlimited,” moral authority under our system of government comes from the people, and legal redress of grievances is guaranteed under the Constitution. The fact that Graves was able to successfully appeal his conviction is but one instance of that. But if you want omniscience and perfection from government, you’ll never get it, and you’ll certainly never get it from a state of anarchy, where competing gangs make the rules based on their own whims.

              1. The only exaggeration here is your belief that anarchy = “roving gangs”

              2. You exaggerate and misstate reality. Weaponry is not “unlimited,”
                The government has as many guns as they want and they have no qualms using them against you or anyone else.

                moral authority under our system of government comes from the people,
                The moral authority comes from themselves. They have the guns, they make the rules. If you don’t like it they’ll shoot you.

                and legal redress of grievances is guaranteed under the Constitution.
                The constitution is a worthless piece of paper that guarantees nothing. If you don’t believe me read the 10th amendment.

                The fact that Graves was able to successfully appeal his conviction is but one instance of that.
                You view an innocent man spending 18 years in jail and then not getting compensated a governmental success, I’d hate to see what you view as a failure.

                But if you want omniscience and perfection from government, you’ll never get it,
                Agreed.

                you’ll certainly never get it from a state of anarchy, where competing gangs make the rules based on their own whims.
                I never said anarchy would be perfect. I did imply having multiple organizations (which you have yet to prove would resemble “gangs” in any way) helping resolve disputes would be better than having a large monopoly resolving disputes. If you don’t like what one DRO is doing, pay another. If you don’t like what the government is doing, you are SOL.

          2. Why is a monopoly gang better?

  8. Why would using the word “innocent” in the order be necessary? He is presumed innocent and is thus innocent regardless of the language of the order.

    1. I’m no lawyer, but “not guilty” is one of two verdicts that may be rendered. The other is “guilty.” There is no “innocent.” Determining “innocence” is beyond the scope of the justice system. We place the burden on the prosecutors to prove guilt, and defense to prove absence of guilt, not innocence. There is a difference. Or so I learned on Perry Mason.

      1. What I learned from watching Perry Mason is that Hamilton Burger–who they always called “Ham”–was a joke name.

      2. Yes. But “not guilty” = innocent because we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The state of Texas didn’t prove him guilty. The language of the order shouldn’t matter and this is pure hair splitting b.s. on the part of the state.

        1. Yes. But “not guilty” = innocent

          No, it doesn’t. It’s a philosophical distinction. Epistemological agnostics will tell you that we humans can never know the truth. (Incidentally, this never prevents them from spewing their own conception of the “truth” on the blogs, but I digress.) But our justice system is based on the notion that, absent omniscience (which no human possesses), it is better to err on the side of injustice (letting a guilty man go free) than flawed justice (convicting an innocent man). That’s why we say “not guilty” (the benefit of the doubt) rather than “innocent” (certainty).

          1. “…it is better to err on the side of injustice (letting a guilty man go free) than flawed justice (convicting an innocent man).”

            Uh…I would totally reverse which one was “flawed” and which one was “in-“.

          2. Letting a guilty person go free, which involves simply not acting, is always a greater injustice than convicting an innocent, and active injustice.

            1. Sorry reverse those.

      3. Apparently there is an “innocent” in Texas law. His compensation was denied because the court order did not include the word. Also, there’s this from the DA: “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.”

        You could try RTFA instead of watching Perry Mason.

      4. If determining “innocence” is beyond the scope of the justice system, why does the fund exist at all? It seems there are people who have been determined “innocent” and they have received money for their time.

        1. it’s beyond the scope of a jury in a criminal trial to determine “innocence”. they are not empowered to make that decision.

          it is the case that prosecutors and other justice system officials can declare a party is innocent. while that has limited force of law, it would certainly qualify under this statute.

          the problem was that people are conflating juries with the justice system.

          1. to be more specific, the prosecutor declared that he believed gates to be innocent. however… according to the comptroller’s regs, the order from the judge must make that specific statement.

          2. it’s beyond the scope of a jury in a criminal trial to determine “innocence”. they are not empowered to make that decision.

            WTF? The job of the jury is specifically to determine guilt or innocence.

            1. no, it’s not. a jury (the “finder of fact”) (the judge is the determiner of law) is only empowered to render two verdicts – guilty or not guilty.

              they have no authority nor any means (they fill out a sheet with their findings and it must be guilty or not guilty) to determine innocence.

              some or all very well may believe a given defendant IS innocent, but that’s not their decision to render.

              this isn’t even remotely arguable. jurors are also specifically instructed that if they find reasonable doubt of guilt, they are supposed to find not guilty. they are not even told “if you find the client is innocent”. it’s simply not what juries do.

              1. and to clarify, of course in a bench trial, a judge is the finder of fact, but we aren’t discussing bench trials.

                also, certain kinds of juries can make other determinations (like in some states in death penalty questions) or grand juries, or etc. but i am of course discussing the criminal jury.

                no jury determines “innocence”

                1. No jury determines innocence in the absolute “angelic” sense, not that such a concept is even defined legally, but they do determine innocence in the context of the charge or charges. Not guilty is the same thing as innocent in the context of the trial. I could take the same semantic position that you did and say, “Not guilty???? But everyone is guilty of something!” Yeah, not exactly helpful or meaningful in this discussion.

                  1. no, it’s NOT the same thing. it’s not even close.

                    a juror can (and should) find a person not guilty if they believe that the case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. it does not therefore follow that innocence was established or believed by a juror. and in fact, many jurors when interviewed in close cases will state exactly that e.g. “i think he may have done it but the prosecutor didn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt”

                    this is not a semantic thing. this is a fundamental aspect of our legal system.

                    beyond a reasonable doubt is a high burden, much higher than probable cause, or preponderance (the latter being the civil standard).

                    i don’t know how to explain this better to you – maybe – talk to a criminal lawyer or defense attorney and let them explain it.

                    1. a juror can (and should) find a person not guilty if they believe that the case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

                      That still falls under the same problem. That the prosecution hasn’t met the burden of proof doesn’t mean that the defendant is truly not guilty of the crime. The defendant is presumed not guilty if the burden of proof is not met, which is exactly the same thing as presuming innocence if the burden of proof is not meant. Again, yours is a semantic argument.

                    2. It is clearly all about semantics. That in our legal system the term “not guilty” is defined as “presumed not guilty,” while “innocent” is only defined as “truly innocent” and not “presumed” is completely semantic.

                    3. Lastly, one of my relatives is a very experienced trial lawyer. I’ve discussed this with her multiple times and she agrees that the imbalanced definitions of “not guilty” and “innocent” is a semantic issue. One could switch the legal uses and meanings of “innocent” and “not guilty” and it would change a god-damn thing. Hence, semantics.

                    4. all i can say is i respectfully disagree. and i know plenty of very experienced trial lawyers. and i’ve never had any of them agree with this concept

                      there are two seperate concepts here

                      1) people’s actual status. iow, did they do it or not. the innocent person is the one who did not do it.

                      2) a court’s adjudication. iow, did the court find that there was sufficient evidence (beyond a reasonable doubt that they did it). it is entirely possible (but not likely) for a person who is ACTUALLY innocent to be found guilty. it is also possible that a person who is actually guilty (iow he did it) be found not guilty (more common than the former) or even not charged, not apprehended or even suspected.

                      if there was a finding of “innocent” it would likely be a reverse of the standard. iow, they would have to be found innocent beyond a reasonable doubt, iow not only were they NOT guilty but there is sufficient evidence of innocence etc. that it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they didn’t do it.

                      think: my cousin vinny. and in those cases, it’s usually dismissed BEFORE the jury gets it because there is insufficient evidence for a verdict to even be considered.

                      many people are proved innocent or strongly suspected as such. they are never even charged obviously. others are in a gray area , not clearly innocent but not enough evidence to arrest (PC). if there is enough evidence to arrest and enough evidence to charge, then it is up to a jury to see if the evidence meets the burden of proof to be found guilty.

                      it’s not necessary for a jury to find somebody innocent because all that’s needed is at least a reasonable suspicion they aren’t guilty. that is a much lower standard.

                      and it’s why there is nothing inconsistent with OJ being found not guilty of murder (set aside that he actually was guilty as fuck, and remember that as far as the legal system is concerned, only the jury is the “decider) but found civilly responsible for unlawful death. why? because the standard for the latter is only a “preponderance”. iow, it was more likely than not that he was the killer.

                      if the jury had found him innocent, then in a collateral estoppel kind of way, he couldn’t be tried civilly for the unlawful deaths.

                      get it?

                    5. 1) people’s actual status. iow, did they do it or not. the innocent person is the one who did not do it.

                      What you don’t seem to be getting here is that, in the literal and actual sense, not guilty = innocent.

                      And this also translates in the legal sense. In the legal sense:

                      “not guilty” = presumed not guilty

                      So if truly not guilty = truly innocent

                      then it follows that presumed not guilty = presumed innocent

                      But I think the confusion here stems from the meaning of “innocent” in the legal sense:

                      “innocent” = proven innocent beyond presumption = actually innocent

                      There isn’t really anything to disagree with if you recognize that the legal difference between “not guilty” and “innocent” doesn’t reflect anything meaningful. It’s just an arbitrary distinction.

                      We could make “innocent” = presumed innocent

                      And we could make “not guilty” = actually innocent

                      This wouldn’t affect the logic of the legal system, it wouldn’t change anything. Therefore, the distinction between not guilty and innocent is arbitrary as long as we make sure to state whether we are talking about presumed or actual innocence, which is where this argument originated.

                      So do you disagree with any premise that I’ve stated?

                    6. no, because among other things you are confusing a presumption with an adjudicated court finding.

                      lots of things are “presumed” in the law. in my state, an 11 yr old is PRESUMED to be incapable of forming the requisist intent to commit a crime.

                      CAN he/she be charged with one? yes. but the presumption must be rebutted.

                      a not guilty finding is an adjudicated conclusion by the finder of fact. it is NOTHIGN like a presumption

                      the presumption of innocence doesn’t say the person IS innocent. it’s not a finding, an adjudication. it’s a presumption. it doesn’t therefore follow if the person is found not guilty, that they revert to a presumption of innocence. far from it. the presumption (by the courts) is such that essentially they can look at the facts with a sort of tabula rasa – clean slate, without any PRESUMPTIONs. the jury is prohibited from considering any evidence not introduced at trial. it’s to preserve fairness, not to make a statement of fact.

                      and again, the finder of fact CANNOT PROVE a person innocent. that’s nonsensical.

                      you are just operating from grossly distorted premises.

                      it’s the rule of law. it’s not supposed to make sense, in the grand scheme of things. it is internally consistent and hard to grok if you don’t understand the initial premises.

                      innocent in the legal sense means something entirely different than not guilty. SOME people found not guilty are innocent. some aren’t. either way, it’s not a question the jury is asked to consider, it’s not a finding they can make.

                      it’s really that simple

                    7. OK, this is stupid. You’ve missed the point entirely. You keep repeating this:

                      innocent in the legal sense means something entirely different than not guilty. SOME people found not guilty are innocent. some aren’t. either way, it’s not a question the jury is asked to consider, it’s not a finding they can make.

                      When it has nothing to do with what I said above. The jury does determine guilt or innocence in the context of the legal system. Did I say they must objectively prove guilt or innocence? No. But the ruling that someone is “not guilty” because of lack of evidence is equivalent to saying that the person is presumed not guilty which is also equivalent to presumed innocent. So far nothing you have said disputes this. Instead you’re talking about something completely different and not even something that I disputed.

                    8. Heller, let it go — you have no fucking idea what you are talking about. Dunphy is not only completely right, he/she has been way too patient in explaining these points to you. If you don’t understand the difference between innocent and not guilty by now, you are never going to understand. And I for one would love to know the name and office address of your so-called “very experienced trial lawyer” relative so I can make sure that no one I know ever retains her as an attorney.

                    9. Since the argument has nothing to do with the difference between guilt and innocence, but what the jury decides, I think you’ve already shown that YOU have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. The jury does decide guilt or innocence. Not objective innocence but whether or not to presume the defendant innocent. Saying “No, the jury can only decide that the defendant is not guilty, they can’t decide that the defendant is innocent” as dunphy did is a semantic argument because it assumes that I’m talking about objective innocence. Try harder.

                    10. dunphy came into this argument thinking that I don’t know the difference between the legal uses of “not guilty” and “innocent.” He still assumes this and therefore doesn’t understand my argument.

          3. It would be irrelevant in this case anyway, since “innocence” as it relates to compensation for erroneous imprisonment only has bearing on cases where someone has already been found guilty, so they’re automatically dealing with a judge, not a jury.

  9. He should fucking kill someone if he can’t receive compensation.

    1. That’s the spirit!

    2. Wouldn’t it make more sense to rob them?

  10. I’m confused. Do we want the Comptroller’s Office disbursing funds in defiance of the written requirements of state law?

    1. Evidently.

    2. It’s a requirement of state law that an innocent who is jailed for 18 years must not get compensation?

      1. it’s the comptroller’s office regulations. the question isn’t whether he is innocent (he clearly is), it’s whether the order releasing him specifically makes that declaration. apparently this one, through oversight or whatnot… doesn’t.

        i would hope there is a legal means he will be successful in, in petitioning for the order to be amended such that this declaration is included, and he can get his money.

        “When an application is sent in, part of the state law requires that either the governor’s pardon of innocence or the appellate court order for relief on innocence has to be sent in along with that application and in this case neither of those documents were sent in so based on the information we had we couldn’t approve the application,” said R. J. DeSilva, a Spokesperson for the Comptroller’s Office in Austin….

        the prosecutor has publically stated that he is innocent. the order just needs to say that. the prosecutor’s statements do not meet the comptroller’s reg.s

        1. Yeah, read what I was responding to.

          1. got it… now šŸ™‚

  11. From the article “Graves and his attorney Nicole Casarez have until next week to submit information.”

    What does that mean? He has only one more week to get a pardon or court order, or he’s lost out? It took the government 18 years but he only gets a few months to file paperwork?

  12. This IS Texas we’re talking about. I love my home state, but we are hell-bent on being TUFF ON CRIME, and judges won’t get elected who cater to the darkies and let things like “prosecutorial misconduct” get in the way of taking them off the streets.

  13. Bill Parham, the DA for Washington and Burleson counties and the man who dropped the charges against Graves

    Has Parham charged Sebasta yet?

    I mean, good for him for doing the obvious good thing, but he needs to follow thru (assuming their isnt a statute of limitations).

  14. You all know that but for the grace of God goes any of us with respect to grotesque abuse of our rights by those in authority. There a daily litany of this kind of shit all over this country and yet, as George Carlin would say, nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. More importantly, nothing changes. Tomorrow and the next day and on and on government will crush one hapless victim after another. Another person will have his property stolen to benefit a billionaire. Another cop will beat the life out of a retard. Another swat team will kill a family watching TV. Thousands will be jailed putting a proscribed substance into their bodies. and on and on and on. And we just sit here, happy in the delusion that it can never happen to us.

    1. “‘You all know that but for the grace of God goes any of us with respect to grotesque abuse of our rights by those in authority”

      Yeah, I know. Even being white isn’t protection enough these days.

  15. I just cant stop reading this. Its so cool, so full of information that I just didnt know. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Youre a great blogger. Please keep it up. I cant wait to read whats next.

  16. The disconnect between lawyers and regular people:

    1. “A person is innocent until proven guilty…”

    2. A jury finds a person “not guilty”.

    A regular person concludes (under rule 1, above) that the person is, therefore, innocent because the person was not found guilty. To a regular person, innocence is deemed a pre-existing condition.

    A lawyer retorts that nobody is innocent, because that is not one of the options that a jury may choose. Maybe rule 1 needs to be changed to: “A person is not guilty until proven guilty…” This new rule is sufficiently circular and redundant to satisfy lawyer’s need for impenetrable language. Nobody is innocent, the appropriate charges have just not yet been filed.

  17. If I ever get locked up for something I didn’t do, they’d better leave me in there. I’d be headed back inside anyway after extracting compensation from those who put me inside, in the form of scalps.

  18. Prosecutorial misconduct is all too common. Christina Martin was wrongfully convicted of 1st degree murder by a prosecutor (Renee Dupuis) who withheld exculpatory evidence. Neither Ms Dupuis nor this prosecutor will be prosecuted criminally for what is, in reality, the worst of crimes — destroying the innocent.

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