"Prosecutor of ex-death row inmate faces disbarment," is the AP report, via the Austin American-Statesman.
The prosecutor who tried a now-exonerated Texas death row inmate could face the loss of his law license over allegations that he withheld evidence and used false testimony to win a conviction.
An attorney for the exonerated inmate, Anthony Graves, said Monday that the State Bar of Texas had found “just cause” to proceed with a hearing against Charles Sebesta, the former district attorney in Burleson County.
Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, said the state bar notified her they were moving forward with a grievance filed by Graves in January. Sebesta also confirmed the state bar’s finding.
The Houston Chronicle reports, "State Bar to determine if Graves prosecutor committed ethical offense," by Allan Turner.
To Anthony Graves, who served 18 years in a Texas prison for a killing he did not commit, an administrative hearing against the chief prosecutor who tried the capital murder case is "just the beginning."
"We should have a court of inquiry to re-establish faith in the criminal justice system," Graves said Monday, the day his attorney said the State Bar of Texas will review the actions of Charles Sebesta Jr. to determine whether he committed ethical offenses deserving punishment, including possible disbarment.
Graves' complaint alleges that Sebesta, who was Burleson County district attorney at the time of Graves' 1994 trial for the murder of six Somerville residents, failed to share exculpatory information with defense counsel, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court's Brady vs. Maryland decision.
"State Bar Moves Ahead on Grievance Against Anthony Graves' Prosecutor," by Terri Langford for the Texas Tribune.
The State Bar of Texas has found enough evidence of alleged prosecutorial misconduct that it will launch a hearing in front of an administrative judge to determine whether former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta should be sanctioned for his role in securing a wrongful death sentence for Anthony Graves in 1994.
Kathryn Kase, a lawyer for Graves and executive director of the Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit organization that represents death row inmates, said the process will remain private until the State Bar decides whether to sanction Sebesta. Graves spent 18 years behind bars — 12 of them on death row, where he twice neared execution — before the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2006, ruling that Sebesta had used false testimony and withheld favorable evidence in the case.
The State Bar will conduct a legal proceeding, akin to a probable cause hearing. Attorneys who are facing such an investigation can choose to have the case heard in district court, before a jury or a judge, or they can choose to have an evidentiary panel consisting of attorneys and members of the public hear the case.
"Graves Prosecutor Under Misconduct Review," by Michael King at the Austin Chronicle.
Graves spent 18 years in prison, more than 12 on death row, for murders he did not commit and of which he was ultimately declared innocent. Sebesta prosecuted and convicted Graves (along with other defendants) for a 1992 multiple murder in Somerville, and during his lengthy incarceration, Graves was twice scheduled for execution. His conviction was overturned in 2002, and he was ultimately exonerated altogether in October of 2010.
Prosecutors reviewing the case (Burleson County District Attorney Bill Parham, and special prosecutor Kelly Siegler of Harris County) found not only that Graves was innocent, but that Sebesta had engaged in what Siegler called the “worst” prosecutorial misconduct she had ever seen. As Jordan Smith reported for the Chronicle in 2010, Siegler told reporters, “Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system's nightmare. It's a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves' trial." There was never any physical evidence tying Graves to the murders, and he had an alibi for the night they occurred.
Related posts are in the prosecutorial misconduct category index.