(CBS) - When Anthony Graves was released from the Burleson County Jail on Oct. 27, 2010, we thought his fight was over. For 18 years - 12 on Texas Death Row - Anthony had proclaimed his innocence. Now, finally, he was a free man; the state of Texas had dropped all the charges against him. The next day, special prosecutor Kelly Siegler held a press conference where she explained to the world how Anthony had been framed for a multiple murder that he did not commit.
But when Anthony applied for compensation under the Tim Cole Compensation Act, we realized that another fight was just beginning. Pursuant to that Texas statute, inmates who are released from prison after being cleared of the crimes that put them there are entitled to $80,000 for each year of incarceration, plus a lifetime annuity. We were shocked when Anthony's claim for compensation was denied by the Texas State Comptroller because Anthony didn't have a piece of paper from a judge that contained the words "actual innocence."
Thanks in large part to media attention that focused on Anthony's plight, and in particular the CBS 48 Hours Mystery episode about his case, a public outcry ensued. State Senator Rodney Ellis and Texas Representative Rafael Anchia sponsored a bill that amended the compensation statute to provide that inmates are eligible for compensation if they have "an affidavit from the prosecutor stating the dismissal was based on actual innocence." Governor Rick Perry signed the bill in June, 2011. Ms. Siegler had already provided the necessary affidavit, and Anthony received his check from the Comptroller on June 30, 2011.
Although Anthony eventually won his fight, other Texas exonerees have not been so lucky. George Rodriguez, for example, served 17 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2004 of a rape/kidnapping that he did not commit. Rodriguez was ineligible for compensation, however, because the Harris County District Attorney at the time refused to acknowledge Rodriguez's innocence. In 2009, Rodriguez sued the City of Houston, but that litigation has yet to be resolved.
Contributed by Nicole Bremner Casarez, a professor at St. Thomas University in Houston