The release of an innocent man who spent 18 years in prison — 12 on Texas’ death row — proves the state’s justice system works, Gov. Rick Perry said Friday. ...That seems like an incredibly optimistic interpretation of Anthony Graves' story. As I wrote on Saturday, "It took a federal appellate court to overturn this conviction and order a new trial (see their order here) based on the extreme prosecutorial misconduct that's being alleged. Texas state appellate courts had already rubber-stamped Graves' death papers and would have sent him to the execution chamber by now, if they had their way." So it's not Texas' system that's "working" in the Anthony Graves example, but the federal one the Governor has been bashing in his rhetoric about "state's rights." Graves is the 12th Texan exonerated after being sentenced to death row.
“I think we have a justice system that is working, and he’s a good example of — you continue to find errors that were made and clear them up,” Perry said. “That’s the good news for us, is that we are a place that continues to allow that to occur. So I think our system works well; it goes through many layers of observation and appeal, et cetera. So I think our system is working.”
Special prosecutor Kelly Siegler and Washington/Burleson DA Bill Parham deserve credit for dismissing charges when, faced with an order for retrial from the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, they vetted all the evidence and concluded Graves was an innocent man who had been victimized by prosecutorial misconduct. In the meantime, though, the State Bar Association failed to hold the former DA Charles Sebesta accountable. And it's hard to ignore that Mr. Graves, though actually innocent, could find no relief for egregious Brady violations (failure to disclose exculpatory evidence) in Texas state appellate courts. I'm glad Anthony Graves is out, but the state's overall record in his case isn't really something to gloat about.