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After Years on Death Row, Freed Man Helps Others


An exonerated Anthony Graves speaks at a news conference Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 in Houston. Graves spent 19 years behind bars for the 1992 murders of a Somerville, Texas family. (AP/Pat Sullivan)

An exonerated Anthony Graves speaks at a news conference Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 in Houston. Graves spent 19 years behind bars for the 1992 murders of a Somerville, Texas family. (AP/Pat Sullivan)


Anthony Graves spent 12 years on death row as a prisoner in a Texas jail.

But Graves was innocent.

He spent many years fighting his sentence. A court overturned his conviction. He was exonerated.

He now fights for criminal justice reform in the United States.

Graves was convicted of murdering a family of six in 1994. The 49-year-old man spent 19 years in prison. For over half of those years, he was scheduled to be executed.

Graves was cleared of the murder charges and was released from prison five years ago. Today, he speaks of criminal injustice while making public appearances.

Graves says he has no bitterness over his years in jail. He says he uses his story “to educate people” about “the injustice that is going on in our criminal justice system.”

Even when he was cleared in 2000, Graves remained in prison. Ten years later, he finally became the twelfth Texas death row prisoner cleared of criminal charges.

Graves wants the justice system reformed – including the death penalty and crime lab misconduct. He was named to Houston’s Forensic Science Center board of directors earlier this year.

He hopes to prevent future convictions that are wrong.

“I want to stay in your face every day to remind you that we need to do better,” Graves said of the criminal justice system.

And the prosecutor who put Graves in jail? His license to practice law was taken away this year. A panel of attorneys found Charles Sebesta guilty of misconduct.

Graves said he “never thought that a young, African-American man from the projects could file a grievance against a powerful, white DA in Texas and win,” he told Texas Monthly.

Still, Graves said, Sebesta “should be tried before a court of law to answer to charges of attempted murder.”

That would have been Graves’ execution.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

Greg Flakus wrote this story for VOAnews.com. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

convict – v. to prove that someone is guilty of a crime in a court of law

exonerate– v. to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime

death row – n. part of a prison where prisoners who will be killed as punishment for their crimes live until they are killed

forensic – adj. relating to the use of scientific knowledge or methods in solving crimes

penalty – n. punishment for breaking a rule or law

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