On August 18, 1992 45-year-old Bobbie Davis, her daughter Nichole, 16, and her four grandchildren 4-year-old Jason Davis; De Nitra Davis, 9; Brittany Davis,6; and Lea Erin Davis,5, were murdered in Somerville, Texas. The murders were brutal- stabbing, bludgeoning with a hammer and shooting. Then the mobile home was set afire.
Bobbie Davis was a juror in the attempted murder case of Frankie Lee Bell. The trial was then put off for quite some time but it was then determined her status as a juror had nothing to do with the murders. She and daughter Lisa worked at the Brenham State School for the mentally challenged where she had been employed for over 14 years. Lisa was on duty at the time of the murders. Her son Jason and her daughter De Nitra were with Davis. Two of the other grandchildren had been living in Houston with Davis’ son Keith Davis until a year earlier when he decided it was better to let them live with his mother in Somerville hoping for better schools and a safer community. They spent the summer with their father in Houston and returned to Somerville the weekend before. Their mother was serving a 3-year sentence in TDCJ for credit card abuse.
The Somerville police chief who was responding to another call discovered the fire just after 2:30am at Second Street and Gunrange Road which is only one block off Highway 36 and backs up to the railroad tracks.
Bobbie Davis was found in the living room. She was stabbed 29 times and her head bashed in with a hammer. Nichole, who was an Honor Student and just started her senior year, had been sitting on her bed. She was stabbed twice and her head bashed in with a hammer also. She had also been shot four times in the head. De Nitra was in the hallway with multiple stab wounds. The others were in their beds, all with multiple stab wounds.
When the funeral came, Robert Earl Carter, then 26, who was a prison guard with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at the Navasota Pack 2 Unit, and the father of 4-year-old Jason Davis came to the funeral with bandages on his face. When asked what happened he told officials his lawnmower exploded. Four days earlier he was served for a hearing to increase child support payments. He was later arrested and charged with Capital Murder.
Also arrested and charged with Capital Murder was Anthony Graves of Austin, who was then 26, and on probation for a drug charge. Graves was Carter’s wife Theresa’s cousin. She too was charged within weeks.
Carter was convicted and sentenced to death. Due to the publicity of the case, Graves’ trial was moved to Angleton and started two years later. Carter’s wife Theresa never was tried and several years ago, prosecutor Charles Sebesta told Graves’ legal team he doesn’t know why he had her indicted. The Judge in the case was Judge Howard Towslee and it was prosecuted by Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta. who retired in 2000 after 25 years as a prosecutor.
Graves’ family testified he was innocent and wouldn’t hurt anyone, and Graves did not testify. Prosecutors still had no motive for his involvement, yet Sebesta claimed he was the one who stabbed at least five of the victims. The jury convicted Graves and sentenced him to death.
In April 1997 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Graves conviction on his automatic appeal. Graves argued there was not sufficient evidence and that the prosecution unfairly hinged his case on Carters’ testimony. Carter later testified Texas Rangers pressured him into naming an accomplice and he threw out the first name that came into his head knowing Graves would have a solid alibi and not be charged.
Graves’ appeal attorney was former District Judge Jay Burnett of Houston who at one time was interviewed and said after all his experience he could tell when someone was giving him a snow job and said if Graves was lying, he was one of the best he had seen. Roy Greenwood of his firm started arguing in 2001 for a new appeal based on the fact that the first appellate attorney failed to subpoena Robert Carter to testify, which caused the court to never hear Carter’s recantation.
Thirteen days before Carter was executed he gave officials a sworn, taped deposition and described exactly how he alone, committed the murders. He said he went to the house hoping to find Lisa Davis who he had still been seeing even though he was married to Theresa Davis. He planned to confront her about the papers he was served, seeking more child support. Lisa was working, but he expected her to be with the children.
At 2 a.m. he went to the home and confronted Bobbie Davis in the living room. He hit her in the head with a hammer and then took a 6-inch knife and stabbed her to death. He then went back and found his son Jason, stabbing him to death. He then went into the room Nichols and De Nitra were in. When he hit Nicole in the head with the hammer she woke up so he took a .22 and emptied hit then stabbed De Nitra to death. When he turned 6-year-old Brittany entered the room along with Lea Erin where he stabbed them.
Next he went to the car and retrieved a five gallon gas can and doused the home and bodies. When he lit it vapors exploded also burning Carter.
Carter said he implicated Graves because officials threatened to charge his wife if he didn’t come up with a name. He invented a story that Graves was upset with Bobbie Davis because she received a promotion over his mother at the state school, even though that promotion was years earlier.
Having Graves in custody, officials were never able to get a confession. They had Graves in a cell across the hall from Carter, in order to monitor their conversations. They heard Graves ask Carter why he lied about him. Yet, at trial deputies testified he threatened Carter, even though from the intercom system that did not work properly they did not know who exactly said it.
Prosecutor Sebesta said Carter told six or seven versions of what happened the night of the murders. He believes Carter tried to recant his testimony against Graves because he feared if he didn’t, Graves would implicate Theresa Carter in the crime. Graves, however, insisted he couldn’t implicate the woman even if he wanted to do so. He said he spent the night of the murders with his girlfriend and with his family.
At Graves’ trial, his brother Arthur Curry and Graves’ girlfriend, Yolanda Mathis, were to testify on his behalf. His brother testified that Graves was with the family all night. Mathis, however, did not. Before she was to take the stand, Sebesta asked the judge to warn her that she was considered a suspect in the slayings and that her testimony could be used against her. As a result, Mathis did not testify.
Even when Carter was executed on May 31, 2000 he said as he was strapped to the gurney, "I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused your family," looking at six members of the victims’ family. "It was me, and me alone. Anthony Graves (his co-defendant) had nothing to do with it. I lied on him in court."
Jim Hahn, who was a juror in the case, sent a signed affidavit to journalism professor Nicole Casarez and advisor to St. Thomas students who participated in University of Houston Law Centers chapter of the Texas Innocence Project and had just appeared in a news broadcast. That broadcast spotlighted the two-years of research the students did on the Graves case and showing their reasons for proclaiming his innocence. In that statement he said he always believed Graves was set up by Sebasta. He said he and a female juror were the hold outs for over a day and a half, but knowing the others would not give in, they joined the guilty verdict. They knew Graves would beat it on appeal, he said.
In October 2004 a hearing was ordered in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals due to students in the Texas Innocence Network .
In that hearing District Attorney Charles Sebesta testified he pieced together a memory of turning over crucial evidence to defense attorneys who say they never saw it in trial. Graves’ attorneys, Lydia Clay-Jackson and Calvin Garvie, testified they never were informed that admitted killer Robert Carter had told prosecutors he alone committed the murders.
Even with this, the judge determined in November the jury would have convicted Graves despite prosecutorial misconduct, of which he said Sebasta was guilty.
Then in February 2005 U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent upheld Froeschners decision, even though the students had discovered the new evidence. A report the students put together stated, "Rather than pursue justice, however, the state engaged in a pattern of hiding relevant and exculpatory evidence from Graves’ defense counsel in its desire to win at all costs."
Then in December 2005, Graves’ case was again heard by Federal appellate judges in Austin. Those judges and U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent paved the way for Graves’ new trial which was set for September 12, 2006, or for him to be released. But then in June of 2006 the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that prosecution withheld evidence in the original trial.
In September 2006 Graves was transferred to the Burleson County jail for a hearing which would begin a new trial.
Then on November 3, Kent allowed Graves to post $5,000 to secure a $50,000 bond because the district attorney had failed to retry Graves within 120 days but that was blocked by prosecutors. That is when Burleson County Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett set a $1 million dollar bond. This came just days after the county was granted a motion to recuse themselves from the case. This was also a day after the U.S. 5th Circuit upheld Kent’s bond setting.
In a bond reduction hearing in March 2007 Chief Texas Ranger Ray Coffman, who was a sergeant handling the case at the time, testified Carter never told him Graves was innocent even though in an October 30th hearing in the same courtroom he told the court he said five times that Carter told him Graves was innocent. In the original trial Coffman testified that Carter implicated Graves in every statement except one.
A special prosecutor, former Navarro County District Attorney Patrick Batchelor was brought in and he along with Julie Stone with the Texas Attorney General’s Office which normally does not get involved in local cases decided to seek the death penalty once again even though all the evidence and misdeeds were shown.
In April, Graves bond was reduced to $600,000 from $1 million. After the reduction, special prosecutor Batchelor said crucial evidence including clothing of the victims, a hammer, bullets, the bloody hunting knife found on a nearby highway and skull caps of the victims was lost and may never be found. He blamed this on the change of jails and personnel.
The knives or knife used in the murder were never recovered and props were used by Sebesta. Those knives with thin blades would not hold up to the stabbings the victims went through and not cutting the suspects hands the new defense team stated.
Jimmy Phillips and several other lawyers started working the case because they believed Graves was innocent. Then Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett set a new trial date for June 8, 2008. In addition, she ruled the prosecution could use transcribed testimony of executed Robert Carter in the trial.
In February of this year Kelly Siegler was hired by the new Burleson County District Attorney Parham as a special prosecutor in the case. Katherine Scardino and Jimmy Phillips Jr. would handle the defense. At this point, Siegler started investigating the case again. She hired retired Texas Ranger Otto Greule, “a local Brenham boy” as Siegler called him to talk with every witness involved in the case.
"After months of investigation and talking to every witness who’s ever been involved in this case, and people who’ve never been talked to before, after looking under every rock we could find, we found not one piece of credible evidence that links Anthony Graves to the commission of this capital murder," Siegler said.
“This is not a case where the evidence went south with time or witnesses passed away or we just couldn’t make the case anymore," Siegler said. "He is an innocent man."
Then on Wednesday Burleson County District Attorney filed as motion to dismiss charges that sent Anthony Graves to death row and caused him to lose most of his adult life in prison the past 18 years.
"He’s an innocent man," Parham said, noting that his office investigated the case for five months. "There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime. I did what I did because that’s the right thing to do."
Anthony Graves was released Wednesday night from the Burleson County jail and immediately went to see his mother Doris Curry. Doris Curry got a call from Nicole telling her she had someone she might want to talk to and handed Anthony the phone. “Mama what is for supper tonight? What are you cooking,” Anthony asked. When his mother told him she wasn’t cooking she asked, “Why, who wants to know?” Once again he asked her what she was cooking and again she asked why. “’Cause I am coming home and I need to eat,” Anthony replied. Still not sure what was going on Doris asked again and he replied this is your son Anthony and I am coming home for real. “I started screaming and carrying on but when he got there he didn’t get nothing to eat ‘cause nobody got nothing to eat,” Doris said.
Two press conferences took place on Thursday. The first in the Washington County Courthouse which is part of the two districts Parham covers. Present were Parham, Ranger Otto Greule, Siegler and others. Siegler demonstrated with the knife which was described to be like the knife used how it was impossible to have been a murder weapon.
“Ultimately it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to make sure when they handle a case that no one is ever indicted who is not guilty, that a witness is not put on a witness stand and asked a question that they cannot answer, that a witness is ever asked to testify as an expert where they are not. It’s a prosecutor’s responsibility to make sure that they never fabricate evidence or manipulate witnesses or take advantage of victims. Unfortunately what has happened in this case is all of those things,” Siegler said.
Anthony, who stayed the night near Austin, met with the media in the office of Katherine Scardino, a well known Houston attorney known mostly for her capital cases one of which she had over turned in Harris County. Media patiently waited as 2:00pm came and went. It was then announced he would be late as they stopped for ribs.
Anthony finally arrived, hugging his attorneys and the students who fought to free him. When asked what it was like, he described it as “Hell is you know what hell is it was hell.” He said he never gave up including when they decided to retry him earlier this year with the death penalty again and even came to him with an offer for a life sentence. He said he thanked God and he was very important in his past years.
He was amazed at the buildings after 18 years and especially amazed of the, ”talking maps” in cars.
ATTACHED ARE THE ENTIRE PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEOS OF BOTH THE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND THE PRESS CONFERENCE WITH ANTHONY GRAVES. IT IS A MUST SEE.. THE WAY THE SYSTEM BROKE FOR ANTHONY AND THE YEARS OF NOT KNOWING IF OR WHEN HE WOULD BE STRAPPED DOWN TO THE SAME GURNEY THAT ROBERT CARTER WAS IN 2006 AND PUT TO DEATH FOR SOMETHING ANTHONY WAS COMPLETELY INNOCENT OF.
NOTE: ADOBE FLASH PLAYER IS REQUIRED TO VIEW VIDEOS. THIS IS FREE AND THE LINK I ON EACH OF THE PAGES.
VIDEO OF PRESS CONFERENCE WITH DISTRICT ATTORNEY BILL PARHAM AND KELLY SIEGLER:
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VIDEO OF PRESS CONFERENCE WITH ANTHONY GRAVES:
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