Former District Attorney Who Sent Death Row Exoneree Anthony Graves to Prison is Disbarred

AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills
AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

Anthony Graves spend 16 years in prison, 12 of them on death row, for a crime he did not commit. The prosecutor who sent him there has now been disbarred.

Charles Sebesta, Jr. who served Burleson and Washington Counties as its District Attorney from 1975-2000, lost his law license after State Bar of Texas legal proceedings investigated how he conducted himself during the capital murder trial.

In February of 1994, Graves was convicted of capital murder in connection with the deaths of six residents of Burleson County. He was charged with the murder of Bobbie Davis, her teenage daughter, and four of her grandchildren. They were found in a house that had been set on fire in Somerville, Texas.

Graves was released in 2010 after serving 16 years in prison. It was reported that he spent a great deal of his time in prison in solitary confinement.

The sentenced man was scheduled to be executed on two different occasions, but legal proceedings kept him from the death chamber.

Robert Earl Carter, a co-defendant, told Sebesta that Graves was not involved in the crime, and he did so the day before he testified to the contrary at Graves’ trial. Carter had also implicated his wife in the crimes.

Sebesta was disbarred by the disciplinary panel because they determined that he violated five different provisions of the rules governing lawyers in Texas.

For one, Sebesta failed to provide exculpatory evidence (called “Brady” evidence after a court case about a prosecutor’s duty to present evidence that is favorable to the defense). The rules governing the professional behavior of Texas lawyers provide that “a prosecutor in a criminal case shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense…”

The panel also found that he had presented testimony to the jury that was false, and made a false statement of material fact or law to a court.

In addition, Graves had an alibi defense. His girlfriend was going to testify that Graves was with her in Brenham, Texas, at the time of the murders. She had testified to this defense during the grand jury proceedings. She refused to testify at trial because Sebesta told the judge in court that she was a suspect in the murders and might still be indicted. There was no evidence that she was in any way involved in the murders.

Sebesta also admitted that he failed to disclose that John Robertson, one of the State’s witnesses who allegedly overheard admissions by Graves, was under indictment in Burleson County on felony charges of Criminal Mischief at the time of his testimony.

The rules governing lawyers in Texas provide that an attorney may not violate the professional rules of conduct, or knowingly assist or induce another to violate these rules.

They also provide that a lawyer may not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

Sebesta elected to be investigated by a panel in a private proceeding instead of the more usual public district court proceeding, an option that is available to lawyers facing disciplinary action. They investigated and heard testimony during May of this year. The panel was appointed by the Chair of the State Bar of Texas Grievance Committee.

In January of 2014, Anthony Graves filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas against Sebesta, who was lead counsel in the criminal trial against him. Graves was able to do so because legislators had changed the statute of limitations for filing a complaint, it had been four years.

In a press release, the deputy counsel for the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas said, “Whether it is prosecutorial misconduct or other serious allegations of attorney misconduct, our office remains committed to holding lawyers accountable for their actions, and obtaining sanctions that protect both the public and the legal profession.”

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served the state of Texas as a prosecutor and associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2


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