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Written by a wrongfully convicted man who spent 16 years in solitary confinement and 12 years on death row, a powerful memoir about fighting for—and winning—exoneration.
In the summer of 1992, a grandmother, a teenage girl, and four children under the age of ten were beaten and stabbed to death in Somerville, Texas. The perpetrator set the house on fire to cover his tracks, deepening the heinousness of the crime and rocking the tiny community to its core. Authorities were eager to make an arrest. Five days later, Anthony Graves was in custody.
Graves, then twenty-six years old and without an attorney, was certain that his innocence was obvious. He did not know the victims, he had no knowledge about the crime, and he had an airtight alibi with witnesses. There was also no physical evidence linking him to the scene. Yet Graves was indicted, convicted of capital murder, sentenced to death, and, over the course of twelve years on death row, given two execution dates. He was not freed for eighteen years, two months, four days.
Through years of suffering the whims of rogue prosecutors, vote-hungry district attorneys, and Texas State Rangers who played by their own rules, Graves was frequently exposed to the dire realities of being poor and black in the criminal justice system. He witnessed fellow inmates who became his friends and confidants be taken away, one by one, to their deaths. And he missed out on seeing his three young sons mature into men. Graves’s only solace was his infinite hope that the state would not execute him for a crime he did not commit.
To maintain his dignity and sanity, Graves made sure as many people as possible knew about his case. He wrote letters to whomever he thought would listen. Pen pals in countries all over the world became allies, and he attracted the attention of a savvy legal team that overcame setback after setback, chiseling away at the state’s faulty case against him. Everyone’s efforts eventually worked. After Graves’s exoneration, the original prosecutor on his case was disbarred.
Graves is one of a growing number of innocent people exonerated from death row. The moving account of his saga—of his ultimate fight for freedom from inside a prison cell—is as haunting as it is poignant, and as shameful to the legal system as it is inspiring to those on the losing end of it.
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