Exonerated man ineligible for $1.4 million compensation

February 15, 2011 4:34:56 AM PST
A man who spent 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit is now facing another fight. Anthony Graves will now have to fight for the money he thought he was going to get from the state.

Graves was cleared last year after prosecutors realized the investigation was riddled with errors. He thought he would be getting $1.4 million from the state to pay for all those years he wasted behind bars. But now the state of Texas has denied the claim for that money.

According to our legal analyst, Joel Androphy, the problem really comes down to wording. Typically, when a defendant is deemed innocent, a judge's order will use the word "innocent." In this case, it didn't. And that's where you run into an issue.

According to Graves' attorney, here's what the judge's order said when capital murder charges were dropped against Graves -- "There is no credible evidence which inculcates this defendant."

Androphy who told us while this wording almost gets to the point of claiming Graves is innocent, it doesn't. Androphy used an analogy. It's like getting to the one-yard line in football, but not quite making it to the end zone. He says without that magic word "innocent," the judge's order could be interpreted as saying simply that prosecutors couldn't prove their case. And legally that's not saying the same thing as he's innocent.

So why didn't the judge's order include the word "innocent?" Graves' attorney, Nicole Casarez, says she thinks the judge just approved the district attorney's motion dismissing the charges filed by the DA and that word wasn't used. She adds the plan now is to file a civil rights lawsuit to get Graves that $1.4 million, though they'll have to file that against the county that arrested him, not the state itself, because the state is immune from such lawsuits.

The state comptroller's office says Graves' attorney has until next week to submit any missing or additional information.

Graves was sent to death row for the murders of a grandmother and five members of her family in Burleson County in 1992. Robert Carter was also convicted of the crime. He implicated Graves in his testimony, but took it back just before his execution in 2000.