Judge agrees to move retrial of ex-death row inmate


By HARVEY RICE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A Burleson County Judge today agreed to move the capital murder retrial of former death-row inmate Anthony Graves to another, unspecified, county, after six residents signed affidavits saying he couldn't get a fair trial there.

The defense requested the change of venue, saying most county residents believed that Graves participated the 1992 slaying of a grandmother, her teenage daughter and four children in Somerville.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ordered a new trial after finding that the prosecution elicited false testimony and withheld statements that could have assisted the defense.

Journalism students from St. Thomas University in Houston, part of the University of Houston's Innocence Network, say they have uncovered evidence that Graves is innocent.

District Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett agreed to the defense request in a morning telephone conference call with attorneys.

"I'm relieved that she granted it because I do think it's difficult to get a fair trial in Burleson County," defense attorney Nicole Casarez said.

Casarez, who advised the journalism students at St. Thomas before joining the defense team at no salary, said the six Burleson County residents who signed the affidavit were risking backlash in a county so heavily biased against Graves.

"They did a very brave thing," she said.

Special prosecutor Patrick Batchelor could not be reached for comment.

Casarez said no new trial date has been set since a July 10 date was scrapped. The court is waiting for the Department of Public Safety crime lab to test evidence from the 1994 trial that was discovered in an abandoned jail cell at the county DPS building.

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