Gaia Goddess

Susan Lee Solar
Susan was passionate and compassionate. Among the unfinished work she left behind was her work on the death penalty in Texas. She had done extensive research for a book (actually, it had evolved into two books) on the people who had either been executed and later found innocent, or who were innocent and still on death row. Friends of Susan have pledged to see this work to completion.

Death penalty graphic

Here is a summary of the case of Anthony Graves, by Susan Lee Solar, January 2002

Anthony Graves case now pending submission
in 75 or so days to first federal court

Machinist Anthony Graves was drawing unemployment and staying with siblings in their mother's apartment in Brenham in 1992 when six members of the Bobbie Davis family including the grandmother, Bobbie Davis, were murdered and their house set on fire in nearby Somerville, in Burleson County. The father of the youngest victim, Robert Earl Carter of Brenham, a prison guard, was arrested five days later by Texas Rangers when he attended the funeral with bandages covering obvious burns. After being told he failed a polygraph test in Houston, he told Rangers he had driven his wife's cousin, Graves, to the Davis home at Graves' request and was outside when the murders occurred. A few days later Carter recanted this story, saying the Rangers had threatened his life unless he told them who was with him, as they had early on decided there must have been at least two perpetrators, given the number of victims.(However, 4 of the victims weighed less than a 100 pounds each and all were asleep and all knew Carter, who was still seeing Lisa Davis, and had no reason to expect harm from him. Carter was in good shape and had three weapons with him, including a gun, which he used on the teenaged victim.)

Graves had 3 alibi witnesses with him all night, his siblings and his girlfriend. Only his brother Arthur testified at trial; his sister and girlfriend were intimidated by the D.A., the latter as she stood waiting to testify, when Graves' attorneys informed her the DA had told them outside the jury's presence, that anything she said could be used against her and she would probably be charged herself. Carter, who had already been sentenced to die, came to Brazoria County for the trial and tried to recant once again his testimony against Graves, telling the DA and his assistant, his own defense counsel, Ranger Coffman and the DA's investigator that Graves had nothing to do with the crime. A local polygrapher was brought in and according to several present at the scene, asked only about Carter's wife's involvement in the crime, not about Graves'. The defense was not told about Carter's change of heart nor about the polygraphing taking place the night before Carter testified against Graves, accusing Graves of killing 5 of the victims, claiming that he, Carter, had only killed the teenager. (Graves, his girlfriend and his attorneys are black.)

No murder weapon was ever found, no fingernail scrapings were taken, there was no DNA. Graves had once owned a gift knife, and Austin's medical examiner testified his knife "could" have been the weapon. His testimony has since been totally discredited by a forensic scientist from U North Texas. The corroborating evidence to Carter's accusation in trial were the statements by three men who were either in the employ or close to the Sheriff of Burleson County at the time of the crime. They claimed to have overheard on the jail/inmate intercom in Caldwell, Graves making incriminating remarks soon after he and Carter were arrested. However, recently a Burleson county rancher sent Graves' attorney an affidavit saying he saw the statements given by all six of the original claimants to have overheard the conversations, written in the handwriting and on the notepad of John Robertson, one of the witnesses, a man known locally to hate blacks.

The judge was the former jr. law partner of the D.A.; his findings of fact were identical to the prosecutions, and the January 2, 2002 majority decision of the TCCA echoed that bias in their restatement of the facts of the case. Graves' 3rd state habeas writ pled incompetent habeas counsel; six of the justices signed an opinion by Judge Cochran to dismiss the appeal as an "abuse of the writ" because they argued there is no constitutional right to competent counsel, or even to counsel, in habeas petitions, and therefore there can be no claim of ineffective habeas counsel. Three justices disagreed for different reasons, that the court couldn't consider such an appeal.

Here is a letter that Annie received from Anthony Graves in response to one she sent to him regarding Susan's death.

February 23, 2002

Anthony Graves
polunsky unit
3872 fin 350 south
Livingston,Texas 77391

Dear Ms. Borden,

Thank you so kindly for this letter informing me about Susanís untimely death.

It is shocking and saddening,and i will truly miss her friendship dearly.Please extend my condolences to her family members.

Also,please thank the friends of hers that have decided to contribute to my cause in Susanís name.I will always be eternally grateful for their contributions.

My attorney name is Roy Greenwood,out of Austin Texas,not Mr. Stephen Keng.

Mr. Keng was someone that was assisting Susan in her investigation on my case.

May i please ask that,if itís possible could you send me a program from Susanís funeral service? I would really appreciate it a lot.She had become like a family member to me and my family,and i would like to have one In remerance of a great friend.

"God Bless You"
Anthony Graves

Susan spent a good part of the last few years of her life working on this project. She had passion in everything she pursued and the death penalty book was no exception. In the course of her research, Susan uncovered information about people on death row who may be innocent, information that had never before come to light. She wrote reams of pages on the subject and was almost done with one of two planned books. But she had her own style of organization and now it will be a massive task to figure out how she intended to assemble the material. This task is being tackled but will take some time.

We will post more here as we can. Please send in any contributions to this narrative that you might be able to add.

This is a summary that Susan wrote of the case of Pablo Melendez, Jr.

Pablo Melendez, Jr. was still a teen, heavily addicted to drugs and paintsniffing and on probation in August 1994 when a 29 year old white man apparently waiting for a drug drop was murdered in Fort Worth, and his companion shot in the neck. The survivor gave a description of the killer to police 10 days later:a mustached, bearded, young man with heavy black eyebrows, a ponytail, tattoo on his right shoulder. Pablo's probation photo, taken 5 days earlier when his probation began, showed a hairless face, light eyebrows, no ponytail. No tattoo was described on his right shoulder then or when he was arrested and charged with the death of Michael Sanders nine months later. Pablo was in a gang led by Robert Gonzalez, Jr. who was one of the main witnesses against him. Gonzalez younger' brother Roel fit the composite of the suspected killer perfectly, and he was placed near the scene at the time by several witnesses who testified for the state.

James Teel and Warren St. John were the well-qualified defense attorneys. Neither they nor their investigator believed Melendez was guilty, despite his long juvenile record, which included some minor violence, including shooting someone in the foot who was involved in a gang dispute. Melendez couldn't remember much of the night of the crime; he'd been drinking and sniffing paint and had passed out. His gang told him he'd killed someone and he didn't know what to believe and fled to Mexico for a few months until his mother brought him back, urging him to give himself up. Ultimately another gang member bargained his way into release by offering Pablo's name to solve the unsolved murder, and testified against him in the 1996 trial. (Melendez was the only gang member who was not related by blood to the others.) For some reason the attorneys can't recall, they did not present the probation photo in court until the sentencing phase of the trial, and called Roel Gonzalez in to be compared to the composite sketch at the very end of the sentencing phase, after Melendez had already been declared guilty.

Melendez' direct appeals attorney Allan Butcher focused on the issue of a witness the defense learned about after the trial from the mother of the victim, who became convinced during the trial that the prosecution had charged the wrong youth with the crime. The victim's parents had both talked to the witness, a black businessman near the scene, who had heard shots and shouting and had driven to the scene and briefly conversed with several Mexican American males near the victim's truck. The businessman originally told the defense he would testify, then suddenly backed down and changed crucial facts like the timing of this interaction. Melendez' state and federal habeas attorney, Jack Strickland, kept the focus on the same issue, with almost no new investigation of the circumstances of the case, despite the fact that the survivor had testified against Melendez (thereby invalidating his own original description of the killer), the mysterious change of mind of the businessman witness, and the conflicting stories of gang members regarding the presence of Roel Gonzalez, etc.

Melendez case is now at the Fifth Circuit, despite the presence in the court record of the probation photograph showing his hairless face shortly before the murder and a photo of Roel Gonzalez that is the spitting image of the composite created with the survivor.