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Ex-death row inmate returns, advocates for judicial truth

Anthony Graves, exonerated death row inmate returns to Texas State to visit with students and promote his book.
Anthony Graves, exonerated death row inmate returns to Texas State to visit with students and promote his book.

Photo by Sandra Sadek | News Reporter

Ex-death row inmate, Anthony Graves, advocated for judicial truth during his return to Texas State March 5, where he held a small discussion session with students and sold copies of his newly released book, “Infinite Hope.”

Graves was one of the speakers for the 2017-18 Common Experience and held a lecture to an overfilled auditorium last October. Due to his popularity among the students, he was invited to return to campus this semester.

Since his release from death row and the publishing of his book, Graves is working on several projects. He aims to educate the world about the justice system and the reforms he said have to be done. In addition, Graves helps inmates prove their innocence.

“I have an innocence clinic of my own called HIP (Humane Investigation Project) where we review cases, screen them and determine whether or not there is an actual issue,” Graves said. “Once we decide on that, we reach out to law firms and lawyers to try and get the cases pro-bono. I have also just developed a relationship with the Harris County Integrity Unit and the DA’s office there. We have been working on cases happening here, locally.”

Graves has been planning for a potential TV show that would present itself in the format similar to that of a reality and documentary show where he would be working on cases on national television. He also serves as the new manager for the ACLU’s new initiative, Smart Justice, that screens DA candidates for the public.

Through the use of his various projects, Graves has been attempting to initiate change within the judicial and prison systems by shinning a light on the issues that have had consequences on the prisoners and their families.

“The best (way) to reform our justice system… to start with the mindset,” Graves said. “We have to get away from this whole notion of crime and punishment and get to rehabilitation and reentry. For us to send them down there and put more baggage on them by not educating them, by treating (them) as less human being that they are and then putting back out in society, I think that the prison system is doing us more harm than good. To better the system is to basically give us better protection out here.”

Bryan Stevenson is the co-founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and came to campus last month as this year’s Common Experience Distinguished lecturer.

Graves is familiar with Stevenson’s work and his work but has yet to collaborate with him. Graves admires him but sees Stevenson’s teachings as more theoretical and from a lawyer’s perspective. Graves believes his own teachings come from real-life experiences.

“I think he does great work on bringing awareness to issues in our criminal justice system but there are a lot of them whose voices, I think, will be a lot stronger and powerful,” Graves said. “Those are the ones who will directly impact our criminal justice system such as myself and the other exonerates which is why I’m starting the Exonarees Speaker’s Bureau to try to get our voices out into the public.”