Anthony Graves

Burleson County, Texas
Date of Crime:  August 18, 1992

Anthony Graves was sentenced to death after an admitted mass murderer fingered him as an accomplice in order to protect his wife from prosecution. In 1992, Robert Earl Carter, a 27-year-old prison guard, was under pressure from his ex-girlfriend, Lisa Davis, to increase child support for their son Jason. He was already supporting his wife, Theresa, and their son, Ryan. Anger over increasing child support payments does not fully explain Carter's subsequent actions, but it is the only motive that has been suggested. Carter, reportedly, was a kind, gentle, and pleasant man, so presumably something within him snapped.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 18, Carter armed himself with a .22 caliber pistol, a knife, and a hammer and drove to Lisa's house in Sommerville, Texas. Carter beat Lisa's 45-year-old mother, Bobby Joyce Davis, unconscious with the hammer, then fatally stabbed her with the knife. He then stabbed his four-year-old son, Jason, and shot Lisa's sister, 16-year-old Nicole. Lisa, fortunately, was not at home. Carter then stabbed to death Lisa's other daughter, 9-year-old D'Nitra. He finished by stabbing two of Lisa's nieces, Brittany, 6, and Lea'Erin, 5. In an effort to cover his tracks he went back to his car, got some gasoline and used it to set the house on fire. In total, Carter killed six people.

Carter was careless in setting fire to the house and severely burned himself. Four days later he attended the victims' funeral. At the services police noticed his burns and bandages and took him in for questioning. He was soon charged with the murders. Police wanted him to name accomplices. There was evidence on the victims of bludgeoning as well as knife and gunshot wounds, so police may have thought that the use of multiple weapons implied there was more than one killer. They may also have felt cheated in only being able to prosecute one perpetrator for six murders.

Police pressured Carter to name an accomplice and promised not to implicate his wife in the crime, if he would name someone. In response, Carter eventually named his wife's cousin, Anthony Graves, a man he barely knew. Graves had briefly met Carter, but did not know any of the victims. At Graves's grand jury hearing, Carter told the jury that he had committed the murders alone and that Graves was not involved. Yolanda Mathis, Graves's 22-year-old girlfriend testified that she had been with Graves at his mother's house the entire night of the murders along with Graves's brother, Arthur, 22, and his sister, Dietrich, 24. The prosecution lacked any physical evidence against Graves. Despite the absence of any case, DA Charles Sebesta persuaded the grand jury to indict Graves for capital murder.

Following the grand jury hearing, the DA arrested Carter's wife, apparently to secure Carter's cooperation. She was released two months later. Over two years later, on the eve of Graves's trial, the DA visited the already convicted Carter in his cell and threatened to prosecute his wife if Carter did not testify against Graves. At trial Carter did as he was told. He, however, recanted his testimony following the trial, always maintained that state, and reiterated Graves's innocence in his last statement prior to his 2000 execution.

At Graves's trial, immediately before his alibi witness, Yolanda Mathis, was to take the stand, the DA had the judge excuse the jury and then stated in open court that Mathis was a suspect and that if she chose to testify to what she knew about this case, the state intended to indict her for capital murder as a co-conspirator. Graves's attorney immediately left the courtroom to tell Mathis. Mathis fled the courthouse in fear and never testified. Graves's inexperienced lawyer did nothing to counter this brazen intimidation of a defense witness. In closing, the DA mocked the defense by stating, “Where is this alibi witness that Mr. Graves claims to have been with? Why wasn't she here to testify?” Graves did have his brother give alibi testimony, but testimony from a blood relative is not considered as reliable as that from an unrelated person. Graves was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.

In Mar. 2006, the federal Fifth Circuit Court overturned Graves's conviction due to the withholding of evidence by prosecutors. As of early 2007, the state is appealing the ruling and a new trial has not been scheduled.  [3/07]


References:  Cell Door Magazine, CBS NewsJustice: Denied

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Southeast Texas Cases, Mass Murder Cases, Favorite Case Stories