Having spent eighteen years behind bars—twelve of them on death row— for a crime he did not commit, Anthony Graves could be forgiven for making a few impulse buys with the $1.45 million he was awarded in 2011 by the Texas Legislature for his wrongful incarceration. But other than the gleaming white BMW convertible he bought for himself two years ago, he has been careful with his money. He has done good works, like buying his mother a car, rebuilding her house in Brenham, Texas, and starting a foundation to help at-risk children whose parents are incarcerated.
This past Sunday, he gave back again, this time as a way of thanking Nicole Cásarez, the Houston attorney and journalism professor who fought for eight years to secure his freedom. “I wanted to repay Nicole but I knew she’d never accept money from me,” Anthony told me. “I thought about giving her an amazing trip somewhere, but I wanted to give her something that would live on.” Finally, after consulting with Nicole’s husband, Rueben, a plan was hatched. “I knew Nicole would try to talk me out of it if she knew what I was going to do,” Anthony said. “The whole thing had to be a secret.”
So Anthony gathered family and friends—Nicole included—together this past Sunday at Khyber, an Indian restaurant in West Houston, under the guise of throwing a goodbye dinner for himself. (Anthony is planning to move to New York City in 2014.) After the two dozen guests had arrived and sat down, Anthony stepped forward to address everyone. “This party isn’t actually for me, but for you, Nicole,” he said, cracking