Graves' Retrial Locale Up in Air

Second capital murder trial of Anthony Graves won't take place in Burleson Co., Bastrop and Williamson Counties speculated possibilities

The second capital murder trial of Anthony Graves won't take place in Burleson Co., state District Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett told attorneys last week during a phone conference -- nonetheless, where the trial will take place (and when it will begin) remains unclear. Towslee-Corbett ruled July 31 that Graves' retrial will be moved from the county, agreeing (albeit reluctantly, we're told) with Graves' defense team that pretrial publicity would make it all but impossible to seat an impartial jury there. Similarly, Towslee-Corbett told the attorneys -- including special prosecutor Patrick Batchelor (who opposed the move) and Amarillo attorney David Mullin, one of three lawyers representing Graves -- that she won't send the case to Brazoria Co., where Graves was first tried for the brutal slaying of Bobbie Joyce Davis, her teenage daughter, and four grandchildren in 1992. But where -- oh where -- the trial will wind up is still a mystery. "It's just up in the air," Mullin said. "I would like to know at some point."

Graves was tried and sentenced to death for the Somerville murders and spent more than a decade on death row before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction, finding that prosecutors knowingly withheld exculpatory material from the defense -- including evidence that another man, Robert Carter, who initially fingered Graves as his accomplice in the murders, had recanted that claim and that prosecutors were aware of the recantation before Graves' trial. Nonetheless, prosecutors put Carter on the stand, eliciting possibly perjured testimony that Graves was in fact involved in the Davis family slaying. Carter long averred that Graves was innocent, a statement he reiterated from the Texas death chamber just before his 2000 execution. And although none of the physical evidence links Graves to the crime, Batchelor is adamant he will again seek death for Graves.

Meanwhile, sources close to the case say either Bastrop or Williamson Co. is a likely spot for the much-anticipated retrial. Still, there are no geographic limitations under state law, meaning Towslee-Corbett could seek to send the case to any jurisdiction in the state (that is, any district that would agree to accept the case) -- but sources agree it is highly unlikely Towslee-Corbett would send the case to Travis Co., and that's telling, Mullin said. "If this case were any good, if this guy were actually guilty, there would be no problem getting a conviction in Austin." Indeed, with solid evidence, there would be no problem sending the case to Austin, Dallas, "or even Amarillo, for that matter," he said. But that is unlikely, he said, and "shows that [the state's] case is weak."

The retrial was slated to start this month but has been postponed, pending the results of evidence testing by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The evidence was shipped off earlier this summer and has yet to be returned. Mullin said he was told it was unlikely the test results would be available until September. Once state testing is complete, the defense likely will request additional tests before they'll be ready for trial. "My attitude is: Let's test everything in the damned case," Mullin said. "There's nothing with my guy's DNA on it."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Anthony Graves, David Mullin, Patrick Batchelor, Reva Towslee-Corbett, capital punishment, death penalty, Robert Carter

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