Anthony Graves had a few choices to make when he got out of a prison in 2010.
Having spent 18 years incarcerated — 12 of them on death row — for a crime he didn’t commit, Graves could have remained bitter or sought revenge, but instead he focused on the positives: fixing his mother’s home with some of the $1.4 million in damages he was awarded, and starting a consulting firm that advocates for the wrongly convicted.
He also decided to recognize Nicole Cásarez, a Houston attorney and journalism professor who fought to free him for eight years, by establishing a law school scholarship in her honor.
“I wanted to repay Nicole but I knew she’d never accept money from me,” Graves told Texas Monthly. “I thought about giving her an amazing trip somewhere, but I wanted to give her something that would live on.”
Graves was convicted of the 1992 murder of a family of six and remained in prison even after the real killer confessed that Graves had no connection. Earlier on though, Cásarez discovered his case as she was teaching at University of St. Thomas in Houston. From there, Cásarez remained steadfast in his defense, even when he came close to being executed, working for his retrial. In her investigtion, a Texas prosecutor discovered that Graves was, in fact, innocent and dropped the charges against him.
To give thanks for what his friend had done, Graves hatched a plan to surprise her at a West Houston restaurant, pretending to throw a goodbye party for himself, but instead announced the Nicole B. Cásarez Endowed Scholarship In Law.
“The students have some very big shoes to fill,” he said. “Nicole exemplifies what everyone should try to be—someone who fights against injustice.”