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Texan wrongly imprisoned for 18 years to get $1.4M

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - 4:40pm

DALLAS – A Texas man imprisoned for nearly two decades for the killings of a grandmother and five children that he didn't commit will receive $1.4 million in compensation after Gov. Rick Perry signed a law with a provision specifically addressing his case.

Anthony Graves had been declared innocent by a special prosecutor last year in the 1992 killings of the six family members outside Houston. However, because of the wording of the order exonerating him, the 45-year-old former inmate has been unable to collect under a 2009 Texas law that gives exonerees $80,000 for every year they spent in prison.

Graves said Wednesday he's grateful to Perry, but that the money "doesn't even come close" to making up for the time he spent in prison.

"I lost 18 years of my life," he said. "It wasn't like I hit the lottery."

Perry, who signed the bill into law on Friday, has long advocated on Graves' behalf, saying his story represents "a great miscarriage of justice."

The only evidence tying Graves to the killings in Somerville, about 100 miles northwest of Houston, was testimony from a co-defendant that is now known to be false.

After a federal appeals court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial, the special prosecutor pronounced Graves innocent. But Graves was denied compensation by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs because the order detailing his exoneration lacks the phrase "actual innocence."

Graves filed a lawsuit in February against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the state's top law enforcement officer, seeking a declaratory judgment of innocence that would pave the way for him to receive the compensation. Graves' attorney, Jeff Blackburn, said Wednesday he will press on with the suit even though the money issue has been resolved.

"Without a declaration of innocence, Anthony will never have his name and reputation restored," said Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas. "He will always be a man convicted of capital murder. He has the right to have that stigma removed."

Graves, who lives in Austin, said having the money will mean he can finally help his mother, whose health is declining.

"My mother did the whole 18 years with me," he said. "No one has compensated her, so I will do that."


 

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