Monday, February 21, 2011

Anthony Graves: Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed Without Financial Compensation

by JuJuBe (Joanna)

The following story is about  man who, under Texas State law SHOULD BE receiving monetary compensation for his time spent is prison after a wrongful conviction. Supposedly a "courtroom technicality" has caused him to be ineligible for compensation. I believe that this was no mere "technicality", that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the (in)justice system to deny this man the money he is due.
A courtroom technicality has cost a wrongly convicted Texas man the compensation that would otherwise be due him for the 18 years he'd served in Texas prison--14 of which he spent on Death Row.

Anthony Graves would have received $1.4 million in compensation if only the words "actual innocence" had been included in the judge's order that secured Graves's release from prison. The Comptroller's office decided the omission means Graves gets zero dollars, writes Harvey Rice at the Houston Chronicle, even though the prosecutor, judge, and defense all agreed at trial he is innocent.

So how did this happen? Cory Session, a Texas Innocence Project policy director and one of the architects of the 2009 Tim Cole compensation law for exonerated prisoners, tells The Lookout that the Brenham prosecutor's office decided to dismiss the murder charges they originally filed against Graves, instead of retrying him all over again and finding him innocent. The compensation law provides $80,000 per year in prison only to claimants explicitly found innocent in a retrial or who are granted a pardon. Neither status now applies to Graves.

Session says he has no idea why the Brenham prosectors neglected to explicitly say in the court order that Graves was innocent. By simply dropping the charges, prosecutors could always retry Graves for the same crime if new evidence surfaced. Double Jeopardy rules would not apply, because the original charges against him have effectively disappeared. Source
I do not believe that the prosecutor was unaware of the consequences for Mr. Graves of his decision to simply drop the charges against this man instead of finding him innocent in court. This was a convoluted way of punishing Mr. Graves for being the victim of injustice. It is a way of extending his punishment EVEN AFTER he has been found innocent.

I am sure the prosecutor STILL looks upon Mr. Graves as a criminal EVEN THOUGH he has been proven innocent of the charges that he spent 18 years in prison for. He seems to be taking the attitude of "Well, maybe he didn't commit THIS specific crime, but he is a Black man, so he obviously did SOMETHING wrong, and he does not deserve to be compensated"

The prosecutors in this case effectively are making the statement that Mr. Graves is NOT REALLY innocent, that they are reserving the right to charge him with this same crime some time in the future. Even though the evidence shows that Mr. Graves is an innocent man, the prosecutors have decided NOT to completely concede to the fact that they imprisoned an innocent man for 18 years.

Not only did the prosecutors decide to "drop the charges" instead of declaring Mr. Graves innocent in order to allow themselves the option of prosecuting him again in the future for the same crime they ALSO, I am sure, had the idea of saving money on their minds as well. They were aware that the wrongful conviction of Mr. Graves was going to cost the state $1.4 million and they decided to make a "mistake" that would deny him his compensation, and SAVE THE MONEY for the government.

I do not believe in innocent errors when it comes to the (in)justice system. No, this WAS NOT a "technicality" or a "mistake". This was a conscious decision on the part of the prosecutors and the judge to once again deny justice for Mr. Graves.


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