January 11, 2007
New Twist in Anthony Graves Saga
BY JORDAN SMITH, Austin Chronicle
On Jan. 5, former death row inmate Anthony Graves was taken from Burleson
Co. to Galveston, where he was freed on a federal-court-
then immediately rearrested and transported back to Burleson Co. because he
couldn't meet a $1 million state bond, set late last month by state District
Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett.
It was another stunning twist to the ongoing legal drama as the state tries
to keep Graves behind bars pending a promised retrial for the 1992 multiple
murder of six people - four of them children - inside a home that officials
say was set ablaze in order to cover the grisly deaths. Graves has
maintained his innocence, and in March the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
overturned his conviction, ruling that prosecutors had withheld from Graves'
defense crucial evidence that could have changed the outcome of the trial.
Although U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner agreed that the state bond,
which Towslee-Corbett set late last month without first holding any
evidentiary hearing, was "excessive and oppressive," reports the Houston
Chronicle, he nonetheless said he was "powerless" to interfere and to thwart
the state from taking Graves back into custody in lieu of the money needed
to post the state bond.
The fight to secure Graves' release on bond heated up last month when the
5th Circuit ruled that Graves should be set free by Jan. 4 if he paid the
$50,000 bond Froeschner previously set, unless Towslee-Corbett held a
hearing and set a new bond. On Dec. 20, Towslee-Corbett did just that,
setting the $1 million bond that Graves' attorneys say is egregious and a
thinly veiled attempt to thwart the constitutional ban on excessive bail and
the Fourteenth Amendment's promise of due process.
When Froeschner issued a bench warrant Dec. 29, for the purpose of bringing
Graves back to Galveston for a hearing on the federal bond, it appeared that
the feds had had enough of the state's stalling and sidestepping of the
federal court rulings; many court watchers expected Graves would be freed
Jan. 5 and that Towslee-Corbett'
just after Graves' attorneys posted the $50,000 on Froeschner's bond, Graves
was taken into custody again and spirited back to the Burleson County Jail.
The move angered many Graves case insiders, who say Froeschner had the power
to tell the state to stand down but simply did not exercise that option.
According to the Houston daily, Froeschner said simply that while he agreed
that was "the business of the state court" and not the federal bench.
Graves will be back in court Jan. 22, in Towslee-Corbett'
hearing to determine whether the $1 million bail is, in fact, excessive. If
Towslee-Corbett declines to lower it, Graves will have to appeal the case
back up through the state court, to the Court of Criminal Appeals, before
the issue could land back in front of the federal bench.
In other Graves case news, Towslee-Corbett on Jan. 4 named Assistant
Attorney General Julie Ann Stone as the prosecutor pro tem for the Graves
case, until a special prosecutor can be appointed. (Burleson Co. District
Attorney Renee Mueller recused her entire office from handling Graves'
retrial, after Towslee-Corbett in December ruled that one Burleson Assistant
DA who was part of the original prosecution team should be barred from
participating in the retrial.) But Stone held her position for less than a
day before Towslee-Corbett ruled once again, appointing (amazingly) former
Navarro Co. District Attorney Patrick Batchelor the lead prosecutor.
Batchelor is probably best known as the prosecutor who secured a death
sentence for Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 despite
serious questions about his guilt - and, indeed, about whether there was
ever even a crime in the case. Willingham was convicted of the 1991 arson
deaths of his three young daughters. At the time, Batchelor told reporters
Willingham torched the house because his children were cutting into his
dart-throwing and beer-drinking time - a position he never backed away from,
even after the New York-based Innocence Project proffered evidence strongly
suggesting that arson investigators had erred and that the fire that killed
Willingham's children was an accidental blaze. In short, says one source
close to the case, Batchelor is a prosecutor who "proudly convicted an
innocent man" and is the "cardboard cutout of everything that's wrong with
prosecutors in the state of Texas."
Source : Austin Chronicle