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Anthony Graves

In 1992, Anthony Graves was falsely accused of murdering a family of six in Somerville, Texas. Solely because a man he barely knew named him as his accomplice in the murder, Graves was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by lethal injection despite offering an airtight alibi and his full cooperation. After eighteen years in prison, he was finally fully exonerated and released. Exposing America’s cruel and highly racist criminal justice system, Graves’s story illustrates the horrors of the death penalty and why caging prisoners for years in solitary confinement is constitutionally unjust.

After two and a half years in local jails leading up to his conviction, Graves spent the next sixteen years in solitary confinement in state prisons. He vividly recalls the constant struggle to maintain his faith and his sanity during that time, which included the terror of being given two execution dates. He observed how death row mirrors the dehumanization wrought during slavery, from the routine humiliation of strip searches to having to eat nearly rotten food slipped through the “bean slot” into a six-by- nine-foot metal cage where prisoners were held for twenty-three hours a day. “Death row is designed as a testament to the ultimate power of the state to kill and control its citizens,” he recalls thinking when he first arrived. “I knew I was going to either be exonerated or murdered. That stark reality renewed my focus and my resolve. I began to see self-pity as a form of defeat and I rejected it outright. Living on my own terms could in some small way serve as an act of defiance. I had a choice on how I’d define myself, even if the system had pegged me a murderer.” In 2006 Graves’s conviction was overturned based on egregious prosecutorial misconduct—but the state then spent four years in an effort to re-try him. Finally, in 2010, Graves was fully exonerated and released. Today, Anthony Graves has turned a terrible tragedy into an amazing triumph. He is a passionate criminal justice reformer, founded a non-profit organization to pursue his work, is a prominent activist with the ACLU and other organizations, and serves on the Board of The Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Anthony has presented at prestigious universities such as Yale, The University of Texas, and the University de Berne in Switzerland. He was honored with the 2011 Courage Award for exhibiting great courage and perseverance throughout the ordeal of his wrongful conviction. In 2012, Anthony was the keynote speaker for the American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project’s 25th Anniversary along with retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. That same year, Anthony testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Hearing on Solitary Confinement led by Senator Dick Durbin. In 2013, Anthony was a panelist speaker at both the National Symposium on the Modern Death Penalty hosted by the American Bar Association and the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary of Gideon vs. Wainwright held by the American Bar Association. He was honored by the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association where he received the Torch of Liberty Award. Anthony established and funded The Nicole B. Casarez Endowment Scholarship Fund, created for law school students matriculating into the University of Texas law School with a heart and passion for breaking up the paths within the criminal justice system that lead to injustice. His advocacy work continues to this day through The Anthony Graves Foundation.

He is the author of Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul (Beacon Press 2018)

Talk topics:

Criminal Justice in America

Capital Punishment

Surviving Death Row

Racial Injustice in Texas: Corruption & Injustice Aimed at People of Color

The Power of Hope

Recovering From Extreme Injustice

Advocacy: How to Get Started and What To Expect

Self-Help for The Accused

 

Praise for Infinite Hope:

“Graves’s account is largely without bitterness or outrage—and is all the more powerful because of it. . . A well-written, matter-of- fact, inspirational account of how a man prevailed against a criminal justice system that is deeply flawed.” — Kirkus Reviews (*STARRED*)

“The tension of this skilled and confident narrative comes from Graves’ expression of frustration with the American judicial system and its blatant prejudices as he describes ‘an excruciating process where hope waxes and wanes for the accused.’ Readers might expect an angry, vengeful voice, but instead, they will discover a measured storyteller determined to expose the failings of Texas prisons and portray those who are held captive within them. Graves emerges from his ordeal with his physical being intact. It’s his battle to overcome the hidden traumas and loss that makes this such a compelling page-turner. “ — Booklist

“Powerful . . . No matter your opinion on the merits of capital punishment, the horror Anthony Graves endured will move you to outrage. . . . It is a story you naturally think can’t happen to you. Pray you could maintain Graves’s extreme fortitude and presence of mind if it did.”
—Hill Harper, author of Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny

“Anthony Graves’s story is one of resilience in the face of injustice. For twelve years, Anthony was silenced and isolated [on death row]. Now he has found his freedom and his voice. Infinite Hope speaks powerfully of the need for reform. By telling his story, Anthony calls on all of us to prevent these injustices from being repeated.”
—US Senator Richard J. Durbin

“By now, everybody should know there are innocent people on death row. But never before has a book by one of those innocent men conveyed how easily this travesty can come about or the sheer terror these inmates face every hour of every day. Anthony Graves’s haunting memoir does exactly that. Infinite Hope will leave you aghast at the failure of our criminal justice system and in awe at Graves’s dignity and strength in the face of this failure.”
—David Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution

“Charged, convicted, and put on death row for a crime that he did not commit, Anthony Graves experienced all the brutality the criminal process could muster: fabricated evidence, corrupt prosecutors, callous police, indifferent courts. Even in the face of such unimaginable horrors, Graves refused to accept his fate or surrender his humanity. Infinite Hope is an indictment of American criminal law that will rattle you to the core and inspire you to action.”
—James Forman Jr., author of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

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