For Immediate Release
July 7, 2014
State Bar Has Found Just Cause to Pursue Disciplinary Action Against Prosecutor Who Wrongfully Convicted Anthony Graves
The Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas has made a “just cause” determination with respect to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against former Burleson County District Attorney Charles J. Sebesta, Jr. in his prosecution of Anthony Graves in 1994. As a result of Sebesta’s misconduct, Graves spent 18½ years of his life in prison, more than 12½ years of that on death row, for a crime he did not commit and of which he was later completely exonerated by honest prosecutors.
Mr. Sebesta has elected to have his case heard by an administrative judge. That means the State Bar grievance proceeding will stay confidential until a final determination is made and any sanction is imposed. If Mr. Sebesta had elected to have the case heard by a state district court, the case would have become public when the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed its complaint against Mr. Sebesta.
Anthony Graves twice faced execution dates during his incarceration. He filed his grievance against Mr. Sebesta on January 20, 2014. During the State Bar’s initial investigation, Mr. Graves also submitted an affidavit detailing how Sebesta’s unethical prosecutorial misconduct forever changed Graves’s life and the lives of those around him. A copy of that affidavit is provided with this announcement.
The State Bar of Texas has power to sanction Charles Sebesta for his unethical conduct, up to and including disbarment and loss of his license to practice law in Texas.
Statement by Anthony Graves: “Twenty years of being victimized by Charles Sebesta is enough. I never should have been on death row, much less for 12½ years of my life. The courts and the State of Texas finally agreed, and acknowledged that I am completely innocent. Mr. Sebesta thinks he can just ignore all that and keep claiming that I am a murderer. He continues to assassinate my character, forcing me to explain myself and to defend myself. That is not right—an honest prosecutor admitted that I am completely innocent, and the State of Texas agreed. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that any lawyer who doesn’t believe in the presumption of innocence—much less an absolute and incontestable finding of innocence as happened in my case—doesn’t deserve to be a lawyer in our great State.
“I sought justice for a long time while imprisoned, having to trust the court system and the legal profession to care about justice, and to do the right thing. I am glad to see the State Bar of Texas now act favorably on my grievance at this stage. I am confident that the Bar will discipline Mr. Sebesta for his misconduct and do whatever it can to stop him from continuing to persecute me, a completely innocent man.”
Statement by Kathryn Kase, Executive Director, Texas Defender Service, and Counsel to Anthony Graves: “We are pleased that the State Bar of Texas has determined that there is just cause to proceed against Charles Sebesta with regard to his conduct in the prosecution of Anthony Graves. Eight years ago, a federal appeals court determined that Anthony Graves was convicted in an unfair trial because Sebesta did not inform Mr. Graves’s counsel that the State’s main witness took full responsibility for the murder, and because Sebesta knowingly presented false and misleading testimony and information during Mr. Graves’s death penalty trial. Rather than try Mr. Graves again, honest prosecutors determined he was actually innocent of the crime and asked the State to release him. Not only did the State declare him completely innocent, it paid him some compensation for the wrongful conviction and imprisonment. By that point, Anthony Graves had spent 18½ years behind bars, 12½ of them on death row.
“As yet unresolved is whether this rogue prosecutor will be held accountable for his violations of law, ethical misconduct, and breaches of the public trust. Texas citizens deserve to be represented by zealous prosecutors, but only those who follow the rule of law, and who respect the presumption of innocence. A prosecutor’s duty is not simply to secure convictions, but to see that justice is done. Conviction of an innocent man like Mr. Graves through prosecutorial misconduct is abhorrent and undermines public trust and confidence in the Texas justice system. The way to restore that trust and confidence is to hold prosecutors like Charles Sebesta accountable when they violate their legal and ethical obligations.
“We are disappointed that Mr. Sebesta chose to have the Bar’s action against him proceed before an administrative judge, rather than before a court of public record. His conduct against Anthony Graves was in a public proceeding, and he continues to make public attacks on Mr. Graves. He should have defended his conduct in a public proceeding, for all to see. Regardless, Texas Defender Service will continue to assist both Anthony Graves and the Bar as Mr. Graves seeks this last measure of justice.”
Mr. Graves also is represented by Rebecca Bernhardt, Policy Director of Texas Defender Service, and by Neal S. Manne and Charles R. Eskridge III, both of whom are partners at Susman Godfrey L.L.P.
About Texas Defender Service: Texas Defender Service is a non-profit legal services organization established in 1995 whose mission is to establish a fair and just criminal justice system in Texas. TDS seeks to reach those goals by improving the quality of representation afforded to those facing a death sentence and by exposing and eradicating the systemic flaws that plague the Texas death penalty.
About Susman Godfrey LLP: For more than 30 years, Susman Godfrey has focused its nationally recognized practice on high-stakes commercial litigation. It is one of the nation’s leading law firms, with offices in Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. The firm’s lawyers often represent clients on a pro bono basis (free of charge), as Manne and Eskridge are doing here for Mr. Graves.
For more information please contact: Kathryn M. Kase, Texas Defender Service, attorney for Anthony Graves, 713-222-7788