During a recent visit to Texas State, a former death row inmate said his faith in his God is what kept him alive, and brought him to where he is today.
Anthony Graves, exonoree 138 and former inmate at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, spent 18 and a half years in prison. Twelve and a half of those years were in solitary confinement on death row. All of that time was spent for a crime he did not commit.
Graves was prosecuted for the murder of Bobbie Davis, her 16-year-old daughter and her 4 grandchildren when he was 26 years old. Robert Carter, the other convicted killer eventually confessed to the entire crime after naming Graves before, and was executed in 2000, but Graves remained in prison until Oct. 27, 2010.
Graves said he forgives those who did not believe him and people who worked against him in court. However, he did not always have this mindset. Graves said his spirituality maintained his mind in prison when he could not.
During the first three weeks Graves was in jail, before being indicted for capital murder, he read the Bible each day. Eventually an officer handed Graves indictment papers for capital murder. Upon receiving the official news, Graves said he remembers throwing his Bible at the grey cell wall and watching it hit the floor.
“That particular night, I couldn’t sleep,” Graves said. “For some reason, I just tossed and turned thinking about what they did to me. Something said to me ‘pick up that Bible’ and I methodically got up and walked over and picked the Bible up.”
After he picked the Bible up, Graves said he turned to a passage which read that God is not going to give him more than he can handle. After reading this, he said he wanted to make sure what he went through did not happen to someone else so he carried on tirelessly day after day and year after year until exoneration.
“That’s when I knew that I believed in God,” Graves said. “My relationship started growing because (He) told me to pick that bible up and then gave me some more peace when I was a mess.”
Once Graves realized he believed in God he started to pay more attention to what happened in his life and what happened around him. Eventually, he was given his first execution date.
“The first thing that went through my mind said ‘I’m just going to live till I die,’” Graves said.
Before prison, Graves said he believed in God but never had what he calls a real or personal relationship with his spirituality. He said all he knew was that his mother and family were religious. After surviving two execution dates, and years alone in a cell for upwards of 20 hours daily, Graves said his relationship with God has grown and deepened.
Graves has a book coming out in January 2018 called “Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul”. The book is aimed at the 2.3 million imprisoned persons across the country. Graves said he hopes men who are falsely accused and imprisoned will find motivation after reading.
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, film and media studies professor, said she enjoyed seeing Graves speak at Evans Auditorium Oct. 10. She said she plans to buy ‘Infinite Hope’ when it is released in January.
“For a man to keep such an optimistic spirit and to keep at it is really inspiring,” Bell-Metereau said.
In addition to writing his book, Graves developed the Anthony Graves Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, it aims to help children, families and falsely imprisoned individuals know their rights and their options.