Fighting a Graves Injustice: University of St. Thomas students featured on 48Hours
When Gia Gustilo enrolled in the course "Innocence Investigations" at University of St. Thomas, she had no idea that her assignments would take her to death row, or that she would play a role in the landmark overturning of Anthony Graves' death sentence. Led by UST professor Nicole Casarez, the class's accomplishment will be featured on CBS' 48 Hours during a special episode Saturday night that explores Graves' case.
Casarez, Gustilo and her UST classmates uncovered critical information and conducted interviews that brought attention to Graves' 18 years of unjust incarceration for a murder rampage in Somerville. The 48 Hours segment features interviews with the university researchers.
"Being interviewed was interesting because we're newspaper people," Gustilo tells CultureMap. "TV is definitely a different animal."
The crew of 48 Hours had begun filming the Anthony Graves story in late summer of 2010, but had to re-shoot interviews after his unexpected release from prison in October.
"It was really amazing timing. They were planning on covering the retrial," Casarez says. "The crew of 48 Hours was actually waiting outside the Burleson County Jail when Anthony walked out the door. It wasn't what we were expecting, but of course we were all absolutely elated and delighted. Then a new angle arose: What happens next? Will he be compensated?"
When asked if the TV appearance was exhilarating, the 33-year-old Gustilo replies, "Nothing can top the excitement I felt after learning that Anthony had been released. The feeling when I got the call from my professor in October, and she said that the charges had been dropped, was incredible."
Will the students' work and 48 Hours segment result in a shift in Texas' draconian death penalty system?
"I sure hope it does," Casarez says. "He easily could have been executed were it not for a brave prosecutor who had the courage to do her job. Hopefully people will see that mistakes can be made."
The "Grave Injustice" episode of 48 Hours airs at 9 p.m., Saturday on Channel 11. Watch an episode preview below: