“I called my mom and asked… ‘Hey Ma, What you cooking?’

“She said, ‘Why?’ and I said because I’m coming home.  It was the first time in 6,570 days that I could tell her I was actually coming home.”

Waiting behind bars for 18 years, Anthony Graves asked his Mom that same question every day for these 18 years: ”Hey Ma, what you cooking.”  After witnessing 300 death penalty executions and two of his own execution dates pass by, Graves finally asked his Mother the familiar question with the taste of her food an imminent reality.

Just under two decades earlier a house in Summersville, Texas, went up in flames. Inside the house lay six people viciously stabbed, shot and bludgeoned to death. The family murdered was that of Bobbie Davis, her daughter and four grandchildren.

Robert Carter, the father of one of those murdered, appeared at the funeral wrapped in bandages. His burns caught the eyes of the police who escorted him to the station for questioning.

Following hours of questioning, Carter gave the police a name, Anthony Graves. Carter claimed that on the night of the murders he had dropped Graves of at the door of the house.

He later walked in on the horrific scene with blood saturating every room of the house, he explained.

On the words of the fire-touched Carter, the police took Graves into custody.

The brutality of the murders led police to make a hasty arrest and, without further evidence, Graves was shut away for almost a decade. In the face of a ruthless sextuplet homicide a purported eyewitness testimony may satisfy the concerns of some suspicious witnesses. Yet, for Pamela Colloff the testimony of a man she perceived as the prime suspect, proved insufficient. The suspicion festering in Colloff led her to pursue an extensive investigation on Graves.

Colloff, a reporter for the Texas Monthly at the time unveiled unanswered questions drawing attention to the inconsistencies in the story.

Why was the prime suspect’s eye witness testimony being used to condemn a potentially innocent man? Where was the other evidence placing Graves at the scene of the crime?

These questions and more were being asked by Colloff, leading to her comprehensive article “Innocence Lost.”

In the article the veracity of Carter’s guilt is revealed along with misrepresentation by police.

George Amaru / art director

George Amaru / art director

Thirteen days before his execution, Carter admitted he had entered the Davis home intending on killing his son. He claimed sole responsibility for the murders.

“I told you, just like I told my brother, ‘It was all me,’ but you said you didn’t want to hear it,” Carter said.

Why had the police refused to listen to Carter’s initial admittance of guilt? They refused to believe the murders had been committed by a single man.

Thus, creating their own narrative in which they placed Graves as the accomplice.

Carter revealed the details of his crime explaining the truth of a sole perpetrator.

He said that he murdered Bobbie Davis when she opened the door and murdered the others in their sleep stabbing his victims a total of 66 times.

Further indicating his attempt to reveal his fault to the police during initial interrogations.

On his execution day Carter made his final statement, “It was me and me alone. Anthony Graves had nothing to do with it.  I lied on him in court.”

This work of Pamela Colloff influenced Graves to credit journalists for saving lives.

At the College Media Association Conference in Austin, Texas, Graves shared his story of wrongful conviction to an audience of a few hundred aspiring journalists, indicating the pertinence of journalism protecting innocent life. He said, “You have a very very important role in our society, that is telling us the truth…I’m not just talking about freedom of speech…good journalism saves lives.”

He identified the importance that journalists report accuracy.  “We pick up the paper, we read the news and we take everything to heart,” Graves said.

Graves explained that the story presented by Carter was understood as truth and convicted him before the evidence was even presented. “It [reporting] has to be the truth, it has to be facts, because what happens is you get wrongful convictions like that,” Graves said.

Graves called all the journalists in the room to action. “Good journalism saves lives…that is the power you have in your pen.”

Anna Glassman can be contacted at aglassman@kscequinox.com

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