The case is nearly 30 years old and the man accused of killing his two step-sons faces retrial after his conviction was overturned due to unreliable arson evidence. In 1986, prosecutors say Graf killed his 8 and 9-year-old step sons by locking them in a shed and setting it on fire. He was convicted in 1988.
“I talked to a lot of people, did a lot of interviews,” said Don Youngblood, a private investigator for the defense, “I’m thoroughly convinced that Ed is not guilty and that we’ll have justice finally done.”
“They relied on junk science,” said Bill Clutter, founder of the nonprofit group Investigating Innocence. That evidence was the basis for the Texas Supreme Court’s order for a new trial last year.
“Hopefully the jury will see the case for what it is,” Clutter said, “and he’ll be exonerated.”
Clutter’s group has been around for just a year and a half, but has helped to exonerate three people. One of those people is David Camm who said that getting to the point of exoneration “takes an extreme effort.” Camm was wrongfully convicted in the shooting death of his wife and two children in 2000. He served 13 years before he was exonerated.
“Even though you’re on the side of right and you have truth in your corner,” he said, “it still seems overwhelmingly impossible at times.”
Camm received a new trial because the blood stain analysis in his case was “junk science”, just like the arson evidence in Graf’s case.
“Mr. Graf’s waited a long time for this,” said one of his attorneys.
“Just give the guy a fair trial,” said Camm, “Let’s put the facts out there, get the junk science out of the courtroom.”
Read more from the Government Executive: Texas Tries Again. Dave Mann talks about the controversial execution of Cameron Todd Willingham and the high number of wrongfully convicted people in Texas, especially arson cases.
The Government Executive describes Graf’s case as “a textbook example of how arson investigations can go awry.”
Graf’s case was one of several identified by six arson experts working with the Texas Innocence Project to identify arson cases based upon outdated and inaccurate science. They identified 5 cases with evidence of wrongful convictions and 2 inconclusive cases. After Graf’s conviction was overturned, everyone expected him to be released, but the prosecution announced their intent to retry him. Instead of relying on false forensics, the prosecution has opted to pursue Graf a second time with a circumstantial case.
Graf is also a textbook example of the “hated defendant”. He was easy to suspect.
“OK, you want to retry him,” leading arson expert Gerald Hurst said, “but what’s your basis?” If there was no arson, there was no crime. Hurst has called the techniques of forensic arson investigators nothing more than “old wives’ tales.”
Can prosecutors convict a man of arson murders without any arson evidence?
If Graf is convicted in his retrial, that could lead to the retrying of all people whose convictions rest on faulty forensics. If Graf is acquitted, that could give hope to those whose convictions rest on now-discredited sciences.
RELATED: Read the Marshall Project’s The Prosecutor and the Snitch: Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man? about the new evidence in the possible wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.