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Exonerated death row inmate creates scholarship in his attorney’s name

Anthony Graves wanted Nicole Casarez's name and actions to continue inspiring others.
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Chiara O. Scuri, October 20, 2013 7:26:19 AM

If you haven’t acquainted yourself with the incredible story of Anthony Graves. Now is a good time to start.

Graves spent 18 years in prison, including 12 of those on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit. Thanks to the tireless work of Houston attorney Nicole Casarez, he was exonerated in 2010 and awarded $1.45 million in settlement money, which, when you consider the price of wrongfully losing nearly two decades of your life seems rather paltry in sum.

Graves doesn’t feel that way. The Texas man has proved an astonishingly forgiving, humble, intelligent and inspiring man. In fact, he can’t even imagine keeping all the settlement money for himself.

He told The Texas Monthly that he wanted very much to give part of his settlement to Casaraz, but he knew she would never accept a penny from him.

Not letting that deter him, Graves approached her husband and the two came up with a brilliant plan. Graves would establish a scholarship in Casarez’s name at the University of Texas Law School.

As the paper notes (via Gawker), Graves presented her with the honour during a dinner party at a Houston restaurant.

Tentatively, she rose from her seat and walked over to Anthony, who handed her a framed certificate. Her jaw dropped when she saw it, and she covered her mouth in surprise.

“’You’ve been punked!’ Anthony said, laughing uproariously. Finally, after he egged her on, she agreed to read the words out loud:

“The University of Texas Law School Foundation Gratefully Acknowledges the NICOLE B. CÁSAREZ ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP IN LAW

Established in 2013 with a gift from Anthony Graves to honor his defender, friend, sister, and angel, to recognize her and her students’ work to exonerate him from a wrongful conviction, and to encourage others to follow her example of hope, perseverance, courage, and humility.

‘Never underestimate the power of dedicated people working for good.’”

Naturally, most of the dinner guests, including Casarez, found themselves near tears.

And if this doesn’t illustrate the power of fighting for what you know is right, it’s hard to think of anything that does.


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Chiara O. Scuri

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