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Keith Graves Exonerated After 22 Years of Incarceration for Gunpoint Robbery

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PHILADELPHIA (May 22, 2024) — District Attorney Larry Krasner on Wednesday announced the exoneration of 59-year-old Keith Graves following a year and a half investigation by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). This marks the 45th exoneration secured by DA Krasner’s CIU.

Graves, then age 37, and three co-defendants were convicted in 2002 of participating in a gunpoint robbery that occurred inside a South Philadelphia bar in July 2001. Two of the three defendants were also convicted of rape (Graves was not). During the course of their investigation, CIU prosecutors Michael Garmisa and Jessica Attie determined that the evidence against Graves was extraordinarily thin. Specifically, the only evidence pointing to Graves’ alleged involvement were highly tenuous voice identifications from three individuals, all of whom acknowledged that they were uncertain of their identifications, and one eyewitness who provided a physical description that did not match Graves; for example, the witness incorrectly identified Graves as having tattoos, light hair, and a light complexion.

Sources familiar with the crime also told police investigators and defense counsel that another man named James Lewis was one of the perpetrators and that Graves was not involved. The flawed investigation resulted in Graves spending 22 years behind bars. For years following the conviction, Graves’ attorneys would receive additional information pointing to Lewis’ involvement but were unable to prove that he was the actual perpetrator, not Graves.

In 2017, the Hon. Teresa M. Sarmina denied a Post Conviction Relief Act petition submitted by Graves purely on procedural grounds. After denying the petition, she took the unusual step of notifying the CIU of concerns she had regarding the conviction. In her letter she noted that “[n]o one benefits from having innocent people in jail.”

In January 2024, Assistant District Attorneys Attie and Sara Cohbra from CIU made an unannounced visit to SCI Dallas to interview James Lewis, who is currently serving a 20 to 40 year sentence for Third Degree Murder stemming from an unrelated crime. The interview proved critically important to later securing Graves’ exoneration: During the interview, Lewis confessed to committing the crime and acknowledged that Graves did not participate in the robbery. Lewis provided a highly detailed narrative of the robbery, including details that strongly indicated he was involved in the crime.

“I’m grateful to CIU Supervisor Michael Garmisa and Assistant District Attorney Jessica Attie for the excellent investigation they conducted in this matter,” said DA Krasner. “My administration will continue to seek evenhanded justice using the facts at hand, wherever they may lead.”

“The CIU is thrilled that Mr. Graves will now be able to go home and see his children and family,” said ADA Attie. “We’re inspired by their strength and persistent hope that justice would be done one day. I also want to thank my supervisors, Michael Garmisa and Carrie Wood, and the invaluable assistance Victim/Witness Coordinator Paula Neeley provided during this investigation.”

The DAO’s CIU agreed to drop all charges against Graves on May 22, 2024, and he was subsequently exonerated by the Hon. Scott DiClaudio. In all matters where an innocent person is exonerated, the CIU and the DAO evaluate whether the true perpetrator can be identified and prosecuted.

Dustin Slaughter, [email protected], 215-686-8713


The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for the prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually. Learn more about the DAO by visiting

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