HOUSTON—Thursday, for the first time in 18 years, Anthony Graves woke up a free man.
"It's still not real to me," said Graves at the office of his Houston-based attorney, Katherine Scardino. "Eighteen years I woke up to. Some steel doors, going through hell. My own personal hell for eighteen years, and one day, I walk out."
Graves was released from Burleson County Jail in Caldwell Wednesday after being behind bars since 1992. Graves was accused of participating in the murder of six Somerville residents. The other man accused in the murders, Robert Earl Carter, changed his early testimony and in 1998 said Graves was innocent.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves' conviction in 2006, leading to his release.
"They took so much from me, but I refused to give up belief and hope in myself," said Graves, who reunited with his family in Brenham after leaving state custody. "I knew that day was going to come," said Graves' mother, Doris Curry. "It was going to take time, but it came. I knew it was going to come, because he was innocent."
Thursday morning in Brenham, special prosecutor Kelly Siegler questioned the prosecution's original case.
"It's a prosecutor's responsibility to make sure they never fabricate evidence or manipulate witnesses, or take advantage of victims," said Siegler, "and unfortunately, what happened in this case is all of those things"
"I'm very angry," said Scardino, "because they could have done the investigation in 2006, in 1994 and 1992, but nobody did any investigation in any of those times."
Graves' best defense originated from University of St. Thomas professor Nicole Casarez, who led a team of students in conjunction with The Innocence Project, in uncovering evidence in the case."
"It's awe-inspiring," Casarez told 39 News. "It goes to show that miracles can happen. I sometimes was afraid that I would not ever see this day. On the other hand I felt that anyone who looked at the case would come to the same conclusion that we did."
Said Graves of his first thoughts when realizing freedom: "I cried for the wrong that was done to me, but I cried because I was finally receiving justice."