Students help free wrongfully convicted man

"48 Hours Mystery:" Anthony Graves spent 18 years in prison, 12 on death row, in Texas

Grave Injustice 41:42

In Somerville, Texas, nothing moves very swiftly except for the occasional freight train and sometimes the desire for justice.

"Emotions were running so high in Somerville leading up to these trials that the mayor at the time said that people in the community didn't even want to bother with trials, that they wanted to quote 'bring back the hanging tree,'" said Texas Monthly reporter Pam Colloff.

But events would unravel a little more conventionally. Robert Carter stood trial and was quickly convicted. Then it was time for Anthony Graves, the man whom Carter had named as his accomplice.

"Things you see in a horror movie ....they said I did," Graves told Richard Schlesinger.

"And did you?"

"No. Would never do anything like that...I'm not a violent person at all... It's crazy."

Graves said he knew Robert Carter only in passing and didn't know the victims at all. In fact, there was no physical evidence linking Graves to the crime.

"I'm, like... whatever is goin' on is gonna be cleared up because I haven't done anything wrong," said Graves.

Photos: Somerville murders

But authorities only focused more on Graves. He had said he never owned a knife, but investigators learned he once did and that it was given to him by his good friend, Roy Rueter.

"And I said I - I gave Anthony a knife one time, around his birthday," Rueter told Schlesinger. "And - I had one that's exactly like it. ...And they asked me if I still had that knife. And I said, 'Yeah.'"

The actual murder weapons were never found. Investigators wanted Rueter's knife, the one he said was identical to the knife he gave Graves.

"And they said, 'Well, would you mind - would you mind if we - examined it?'" Rueter explained. "And I said, 'No, I wouldn't mind at all.'"

Rueter thought the knives were too flimsy to inflict any serious wounds. And some of the victims had knife wounds that went through their skulls. So Rueter was stunned when those test results came back.

"The blade fit inside the skullcap perfectly," he said.

"So the DA's office told you the knife, which was identical to the one you gave Anthony, fit perfectly into the holes in those babies' skulls?" asked Schlesinger.

"Yes," he replies.

"What did you make of that?"

"I - I didn't want to believe it."

"Because if that was true...?"

"My friend was a murderer...right?"

His friend Anthony Graves' murder trial began in October 1994. District Attorney Charles Sebesta's star witness was Robert Carter.

"I would have hated to have gone to the jury without Carter's testimony in all fairness," Sebesta told Schlesinger.

But Carter was a problem witness. He was a liar. He had changed his story several times, sometimes implicating Graves, sometimes not.

"And so, when he got on the stand, were you worried about what he would say?" Schlesinger asked Graves.

"No," he replied. "Because I told my attorney I wanted him to testify. I said because there's no way this man can look me in my face and lie on me. ...I was trying to have faith in the fact that this guy would be honest, you know. Because this is my life. This is my life."

"So what did he say when he got up on the stand?"

"He lie. He lie. He said I did the crime with him."

Carter took the stand and said it was Graves who stabbed several victims to death. And Roy Rueter had to testify about the knife he gave Graves.

"I mean, it was a very bad position to be put in," he said. "It was - I was very torn, you know - conflicted about it. But they said it fit perfectly."

"And how did his testimony feel to you as opposed to other testimony?" Schlesinger asked Graves.

"Like betrayal. Like betrayal," he replied. "Because he knows me. ...This man knew me. Knew my family. Knew my kids."

And there were more damaging witnesses waiting to testify against Graves. Charles Sebesta said he had found five people at the jail were Graves and Carter were held who said they heard them talking about the murders.

"When you have five people who overhear conversations, very, very damning conversations between Carter and Graves on what they did and what they've gotta do...that in itself... That's significant. That's very admissible," Sebesta explained. "I probably could have done with one or two. In a capital murder case you want as much as you can. We had five."

Sebesta may have had corroborating witnesses, but Graves had alibi witnesses.

His brother, Arthur Curry, testified for him and has never changed his story.

"My brother never left the house that night, never," Curry said. "And never is never. He never left the house that night."

Asked where he was that night, Graves told Schlesinger, "I was at an apartment, my mother's apartment, with my brother, my - a lady friend and my sister."

Graves' girlfriend, another alibi witness, was set to take the stand as well, but when the day came, she unexpectedly refused.

The man who lost most of his family, Keith Davis, had heard more than enough. "I seen this guy hundreds of times in court," he said of Graves.

"When you looked at Anthony Graves, what did you see?" Schlesinger asked.

"A murderer... It was like he had horns like the devil... He looked like an evil person to me at the time. "

The jury agreed. Anthony Graves was convicted of six counts of capital murder and sentenced to death.

"This is crazy," Graves told Schlesinger. "I go from my home, where I was supposed to be safe, feel safe, and then I'm going to death row for something that I didn't even do."

But as it turns out, the jury might not have heard everything.