Well, this is certainly encouraging: An exonerated death row inmate and the attorney who helped free him have been appointed to the board overseeing Houston's crime lab.
Anthony Graves, who served 18 years for killing six members of a Burleson County family in 1992, told the Houston Chronicle, "I'm excited about the honor, and I'm excited about the opportunity [Houston Mayor Annise Parker] gave me to represents the citizens."
Graves spent 12 of his 18 years on death row, and was ultimately released from Bursleson County Jail in 2010. He'd been convicted along with Robert Earl Carter for killing Bobbie Davis, her 16-year-old daughter, and her four grandchildren. As the Chron notes, "Carter was executed in 2000. Two weeks before his death, he provided a sworn statement saying that his naming of Graves as an accomplice was a lie." (The prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, was disbarred this month after the State Bar's disciplinary panel committed "professional misconduct" in the handling of the case).
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Graves told the Chron he will bring a "different perspective" to the board overseeing the Houston Forensic Science Center, which assists law enforcement agencies with the testing of firearms, analyzing controlled substances, and processing fingerprints, among other services."
"I've experienced the total failure of our system from top to bottom," Graves told the Chron. He added: "I want the system to be fair. When the system works and we are all treated equally, that's when we can cut down on the number of wrongful convictions and bad mistakes," he said. "If we get the right person, we can actually be safe."
Attorney and University of St. Thomas journalism professor Nicole Casarez, who worked on Graves' case for eight years, was also appointed to the board.
"Graves said she is nothing less than the 'person who saved my life,'" according to the Chron.
The story of Graves and Casarez (and Casarez's tireless students) is one of the best — and most horrifying — examples of how easily the criminal justice system in Texas can be abused and corrupted. It's a good sign that they're been named to the board.