HOUSTON - A man who spent 18 years in prison, many of them on death row, spoke out on Thursday, one day after he was released from custody because officials found there wasn't evidence that connected him to the killings of six people.
Capital murder charges against Anthony Graves, 45 were dropped. He had been convicted of killing a Sommerville woman, her teenage daughter and four grandchildren in 1992. The victims were shot, stabbed and the house they were in was set on fire.
The district attorney that oversees both Burleson and Washington counties said Thursday that he was confident with his decision to exonerate Graves. He said there wasn't evidence linking Graves to the murders.
Graves said he is still learning how freedom feels.
"For the first few hours, I thought I'd wake up and be back in jail. It just wasn't real to me. It's still not real to me," Graves said. "Going through hell, my own personal hell for 18 years and one day, I walk out. It's hard to make the adjustment. It's hard to even process that right now."
Graves said he is not bitter.
"I never lost hope. I never lost hope. Once you lose hope, you're just a dead man walking. I knew that one day it would come to this. I just didn't know it was going to be this day," he said.
Robert Earl Carter was Graves' co-defendant in the killings. Detectives said the only evidence that linked Graves to the murders was Carter's testimony, which he recanted two weeks before his execution in 2000.
Carter said he was pressured to testify against Graves by then-Washington County District Attorney Charles Sebesta.
"Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that would best be described as a criminal justice system's nightmare," special prosecutor Kelly Siegler said. "We all know now there never was enough evidence to take this man to trial."
"I have to give that to God. (Sebesta) has to sleep with himself. He has to look in the mirror. So, I just have to give that to God. I can't give him no more of my time or my energy," Graves said.
Graves' family said they were thrilled he was released and they had a reunion with him at his mother's home in Brenham. Graves said he enjoyed a plate of barbecue and sleeping in a real bed.
"I always knew my son would be free," said Graves' mother, Dorris Curry. "I didn't know when, but I knew he would be free. I had that faith in him."
Graves said he just wants to live his life again.
Graves' alibi for the killings was that he was sleeping, which his mother and brother testified about, but the jury did not believe him.
KPRC tried to contact Sebesta for his reaction to Graves' release. He was unavailable for comment.
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