Governments and other bureaucracies are capable of unimaginable callousness, stupidity, and wrongful conduct, allowing individual fools to multiply their power to harm exponentially, and then to see an inhuman computer-driven monstrosity run amuck as everyone denies responsibility. You could not devise a better example of this process than what Texas is doing to Anthony Graves.
He is an innocent man convicted of murder in 1994 who was released last October after spending 18 years in prison, condemned to death. He had been convicted with fabricated evidence and coached testimony employed against him by former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Siberia, and a state investigation got a Texas judge to set Graves free. But the maw of Texas bureaucracy wasn’t through ruining his life.
Graves was entitled to receive compensation from the state under the Timothy Cole Compensation Act, which provides $80,000 to wrongfully convicted people for every year of unjust imprisonment. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, however, who sees her duty as saving money in the budget rather than paying for the misdeeds of unethical prosecutors, is refusing to pay on a dubious technicality—the judge that freed Graves did not declare his “actual innocence,” as the Act requires. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s objections to the contrary, Combs refuses to budge, requiring Graves to sue to get the already inadequate compensation he is entitled to.
Believe it or not, that’s not even the worst of it.
An automated system in the Texas attorney general’s office flagged Graves for owing back payments of child support for 1998-2002—when he was on Death Row. So now Graves’ paychecks are being garnisheed to pay the child support, which he would have paid if Texas hadn’t framed him, and could pay now (though his children are grown, self-supporting, and virtual strangers, since he was robbed of the chance to know them) if it would just pay him the pittance the law says he should be reimbursed.
The Texas Attorney General’s office told the Houston Chronicle that there was nothing it could do, because the automated system “regularly files wage withholding orders without any involvement from the executive office.”
The local media is expressing outrage and calling for justice, but so far, everyone in the Texas state government is blaming someone or something else. Meanwhile, Anthony Graves continues to suffer, because no one has the courage, the principle, and the sense of common decency to be his champion and decide, “I will do whatever it takes to make this right. No Texan, no American, no human being should have to endure this.”
In the state that gave us the Alamo, are their no heroes left to fight for a wronged man?