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18 years on Death Row: The Consequences of the Death Penalty


The following ran on the Feb. 20, 2012, edition of Dallas South News. History Professor Rick Halperin provided expertise for this story.

February 29, 2012

By Julie Fancher
Every week for 18 years, Anthony Graves was allowed to make one phone call from prison. And each call would be to his mother.
What was she making for dinner, he would ask. The food that they served in prison was mush compared to the meals his mother used to make for him. Each week his mother would say the same thing: why would he want to torture himself with memories of her home cooking when he could have none of it?
“Steak and potatoes she would say, and I would go ‘ah, Mom,’ why would you tell me that?” Graves said.
And then one day, he called his mom, just as he had done every week for 18 years, to ask her what she was making for dinner. And once again, she asked him why in the world he would want to know.
“Because I’m coming home,” he told her. “Your son is coming home.”
Graves was wrongly convicted of a horrific multiple homicide in 1994. His conviction was overturned in 2006, and he was fully exonerated in 2010. He is the 12th and most recent death row inmate to be cleared exonerated in Texas since 1973. Only a small fraction of the hundreds of men that have sat on death row have been exonerated....

Southern Methodist University recently hosted two panel discussions on the death penalty. One of them featured Graves, another exoneree, Clarence Brandley, and former Death Row Chaplain Rev. Carroll Pickett....

“Anthony Graves has spent as much time on death row as the average first year student at SMU has been alive,” said Rick Halperin, SMU Professor of the Practice of Human Rights, in a recent interview from his office.
Halperin, surrounded by books, papers, awards and posters with slogans promoting human rights, is also the Director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Education Program, which sponsored the panels. He said that despite the amount of time Graves spent in prison, he received little compensation and no way to ever get that time back....