A travesty of the Texas judicial system leads to death-row vindication.
Though Graves served more than 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, his account is largely without bitterness or outrage—and is all the more powerful because of it. The facts speak for themselves. On a night when the author was with his girlfriend at his mother’s apartment, another man named Robert Carter committed a horrific mass murder, killing his young son, a number of other children, and setting the house on fire in order to minimize the evidence. After his apprehension, he confessed, saying he had an accomplice. He named Graves, who only knew Carter’s name as a man who had recently married one of Graves’ cousins and did not know any of his victims or even the house where the crime had taken place. The author insisted that this was a big mistake, that Carter had lied, and that there was so little to any case against him that he would soon be set free. Unfortunately, he writes, “no one cared about my alibi, or my fate. They wanted someone to blame, and here I was.” He took a polygraph and was told he failed, though no record of those results was kept, and then he was identified in a lineup where none of the others were close in age. Though Carter recanted before the grand jury and said he had lied about Graves, the latter was simply presumed guilty at every stage, despite a very weak case against him. Ultimately, the author found a lawyer who not only believed him, but stuck with him, a Texas Monthly reporter who made his case public, and an appeals court that recognized how much wrong had been done to him. But all along, he had his own inner resources and faith that the truth would set him free.
A well-written, matter-of-fact, inspirational account of how a man prevailed against a criminal justice system that is deeply flawed.