GALVESTON — Gov. Rick Perry said that Anthony Graves’ capital-murder conviction was a “great miscarriage of justice” and pledged to assist in the effort to win the state compensation denied to Graves by the Texas Comptroller‘s Office.
Perry said he would help Graves, who spent 18 years behind bars before charges were dropped in October, either through legislative action or “directly with the comptroller’s office.”
In a Houston appearance Tuesday to discuss the importance of small business to the economy, Perry said he would support efforts to “get this individual the appropriate reimbursement for years that he has spent incarcerated for something that he did not do.”
Governor’s office spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Perry could not pardon Graves because a federal appeals court had thrown out the original conviction, and a governor could only pardon a convicted criminal.
The governor’s office has been consulting with Graves’ attorneys, Nashed said.
“We understand that Anthony Graves is innocent, and have been in contact with his lawyers, who are pursuing every available option to ensure that he is granted the restitution he deserves,” she said.
Graves attorney Jeff Blackburn of Amarillo said the governor’s statement that Graves is innocent gives a moral boost to the effort to win compensation for him.
“That statement in and of itself from the chief executive of this state is going to go a long way toward getting what (Graves) deserves,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said attorneys are looking at several alternatives but likely would have to sue the comptroller’s office in federal court.
The comptroller’s office last week notified Graves’ attorney Nicole Casarez that it had rejected his petition for compensation because the court order dismissing the capital murder charges did not contain the words “actual innocence.” The law provides for $80,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment.
Blackburn, who said he helped write the compensation law, accused the comptroller’s office of misinterpreting the statute and its intent.
“The comptroller’s office has decided on their own to apply a hypertechnical, extremely narrow interpretation,” he said. “We are clearly going to have to go to court to make the comptroller do the right thing.”
Blackburn and another Amarillo attorney, David Mullin, represented Graves in 2006 at their own expense after the5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his 1994 conviction and ordered a new trial. They were replaced by court-appointed attorneys Jimmy Phillips Jr. and Katherine Scardino. Casarez has been on the defense team with both pairs of lawyers.
“We never lost our commitment to this case and now we are going to reenter the fray,” Blackburn said.
Graves, 45, could not be reached for comment.
A Burleson County jury convicted Graves in the 1992 slayings of Bobbie Joyce Davis, 45; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and four grandchildren ages 4-9.
Codefendant Robert Carter in his final statement before being put to death in 2002, admitted he had lied in his testimony against Graves.
Special prosecutor Kelly Siegler took over the case last year and found that the evidence showed Graves was innocent. At her request, Burleson-Washington County District Attorney Bill Parham asked that the charges be dropped.