Nicole B. Cásarez is known for making headlines. Cásarez, an attorney and professor of communication at the University of St. Thomas (UST), worked for eight years to exonerate Anthony Graves — a Texas death row inmate wrongly accused and convicted of murder in 1994.
As a part of the Innocence Project of Texas , Cásarez and a team that included UST students were successful in winning Graves’ freedom in 2010. And while the team has received international attention for the legal battle waged on Graves’ behalf, Cásarez maintains that the public relations campaign the team maintained during the eight and a half-year journey was critical to their success.
“Our team did good legal work to prove Anthony’s innocence,” said Cásarez, “but it took more than good lawyering to win his freedom. Too often, public relations gets a bad rap, but it took old-fashion public relations skills like media relations, writing, stakeholder engagement and public affairs work to help Anthony receive justice.”
Cásarez believes that public relations is a profession that can be a positive force in the world. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a law degree from the University of Texas, and a master’s in communication (public relations management) from the University of Houston. She has directed an innocence investigations class at UST since 2001, and she and her students have worked on numerous capital and non-capital cases through the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network.
The net proceeds of this event will benefit the Public Relations Foundation of Houston.