Former Texas prosecutor Charles Sebesta reportedly sent an innocent man to death row by using false testimony and withholding evidence. After the Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals disbarred the District Attorney, Sebesta attempted to appeal the case, but on Monday, the prosecutor lost. This means the disbarment is final, and Charles Sebesta has officially received his punishment for sending Anthony Graves to death row.
According to ABC News, the Texas State Bar first revoked Sebesta’s license to practice law back in June of 2015 after it was determined that the DA was guilty of “prosecutorial misconduct.” Charles Sebesta’s unethical and duplicitous methods put an innocent man of death row for 12 years and a total of 18 years in prison. On two separate occasions, Anthony Graves was very nearly executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
He was convicted of setting a fire that killed six people in 1992, and sentenced to death two years later.
According to the Huffington Post, Charles Sebesta had already convicted a man named Robert Carver for the murders, and wanted to implicate Anthony Graves as an accomplice. Despite the fact that Carver explicitly admitted to Sebesta that Anthony Graves was innocent and had nothing to do with the fire, the prosecutor withheld this information from the court. He also presented a false testimony that ultimately sent Graves to death row.
Thankfully, Anthony Graves was exonerated in 2010 by the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and rescued from death row. But the man who put him there in the first place, Charles Sebesta, has only just received his comeuppance.
In 2007, the State Bar of Texas Board ruled that there wasn’t any good reason to disbar Charles Sebesta. Anthony Graves filed a complaint against the prosecutor seven years later, in January of 2014, accusing him of withholding critical evidence that would have saved him from death row. This time, the State Bar of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals looked into the accusations and sided with Graves, calling the actions of Charles Sebesta “egregious.”
The prosecutor appealed the disbarment ruling, arguing that the State Bar of Texas shouldn’t be allowed to reverse their 2007 decision. However, a law put in place in 2013 allows any wrongfully convicted person to request disciplinary action against the prosecutor who got them falsely sentenced, as long as this request is made within four years. Having filed the complaint in 2014, Anthony Graves was just within the time limit. Charles Sebesta’s appeal was denied, and his disbarment will stand.
“The bar stepped in to say that’s not the way our criminal justice system should work,” said Anthony Graves. “This is a good day for justice.”
Sebesta claims the State Bar was treating him unfairly, and that Anthony Graves was rightly convicted.
“I am concerned about the process,” Charles Sebesta said. “My opinion is that we presented the evidence we had and felt like it was sufficient.”
A lawyer named Neal Manne represented the innocent death row inmate for free. He was understandably very pleased with the decision to disbar Sebesta.
“In rejecting Sebesta’s argument, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals found that Charles Sebesta’s misconduct was so egregious that they characterized him as having ‘unclean hands.’ That certainly is a fitting description.”
Meanwhile, Anthony Graves is attempting to get his life back on track, having spent over a decade on death row for a crime he had nothing to do with.
“I have waited 20-plus years for complete justice and freedom,” he said. “No one who makes it a goal to send a man to death row without evidence — and worse, while hiding evidence of my innocence — deserves to be a lawyer in Texas.”
What do you think? Was it right to disbar Charles Sebesta for sending an innocent man to death row?
[Photo by AP Photo/Pat Sullivan]