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21 May 2024

Prosecutor sent innocent man to death row


A former prosecutor who used false testimony and withheld evidence to send a now-exonerated man to death row in Texas has lost an appeal to overturn his disbarment.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Board of Disciplinary Appeals on Monday upheld the decision of the State Bar of Texas to disbar Charles Sebesta. The board's decision is final.

The Texas State Bar revoked the Burleson County district attorney's law license in June, finding he had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Anthony Graves. Sebesta appealed the ruling.

Graves was convicted in the 1992 slayings of six people in South Texas and was sentenced to death in 1994. He spent 18 years in prison, including 12 on death row, and came close to execution twice.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction in 2010.

Graves filed a complaint against Sebesta in January 2014, asking the bar to hold the prosecutor accountable for withholding critical evidence.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals called Sebesta's conduct in the Graves case "egregious."

The Bar ruled in 2007 that there wasn't any cause to disbar Sebesta in the case, and his lawyers argued last month that the agency couldn't change its response to a new complaint Graves filed.

But a lawyer for the board said anyone who has been wrongfully convicted has up to four years after their release to seek discipline against prosecutors who elicit false testimony or withhold evidence, under a 2013 law.

"The bar stepped in to say that's not the way our criminal justice system should work," Graves said. "This is a good day for justice."

(Image via Shutterstock)