Texas State Bar Votes To Disbar Former Prosecutor For Role In Conviction Of Innocent Man

gavel2The Board of Disciplinary Appeals (appointed by the Texas Supreme Court) has upheld a state licensing board’s decision to disbar former prosecutor Charles Sebesta for his role in convicting an innocent man. Anthony Graves spent 18 years on death row for setting a fire that killed six people. Sebesta’s conduct was shocking but remains a relatively rare example of prosecutors being held accountable in such cases of prosecutorial abuse.

Sebesta had convicted Robert Carter for the murders and tried to get Carter to say Graves was an accomplice. However, just a day before the trial, Carter told Sebesta he acted alone and Graves was not involved. Sebesta withheld the information from the defense and presented false testimony implicating Graves. Sebesta also blocked an alibi witness by telling the court that the witness was a suspect in the murders and could be indicted. The witness then refused to testify.

After his conviction was reversed, a special prosecutor found in 2010 that there was no credible evidence that Graves was involved in the murders.

Sebesta now insists that he has been treated unfairly.

37 thoughts on “Texas State Bar Votes To Disbar Former Prosecutor For Role In Conviction Of Innocent Man”

  1. Hey Darren, I have two duplicate posts stuck in the filter… Could you please release one when you are able?

    Thank you.

  2. “So… If we continue to disbar prosecutors who hide evidence

    Read more closely.
    If the legal system continues to be corrupt, from police to prosecution to defense to courts to appeals courts to “innocence projects”, it loses legitimacy.

    The case at hand involved two or more people, 3 was felt to be probable. Only one is in jail.
    Failures like this case, repeated sufficiently often, will result in a loss of faith in the system in toto.
    And then, because the system is no longer trustworthy, people will take the law into their own hands.

  3. The end result will be families reverting to taking the law into their own hands, seeing as the courts will not do so fairly and fast.

    Careful what you ask for.

    So… If we continue to disbar prosecutors who hide evidence and tamper with witnesses the next Vacation movie could be more like a Natural Born Killers sequel?

    I’m thinking this could work with the right director.

    1. fiver – I think there would be fewer prosecutors fiddling with the evidence if we went to the English system. The county would hire attorneys who would take turns at being prosecution or defense.

  4. KC Fleming – Avery was clearly railroaded on his first trial and they went after him so fast after he sued them for $36 million, I think the ‘fitted him up’ just so they didn’t have to pay the money.

  5. I know Charles Sebesta and defended an innocent man against him in 1979. He was a prosecutor in a rural Texas county, where what passed for justice was a facade and a shell of what justice should be. The entire system was stacked against all defendants, especially those who were minorities. Judges were closely aligned with prosecutors and all parts of the criminal “justice” system worked to convict whoever was charged. There was never a presumption of innocence. I know nothing about the case that has led to Sebesta’s disbarment, but the facts do not surprise me.

  6. The end result will be families reverting to taking the law into their own hands, seeing as the courts will not do so fairly and fast.

    Careful what you ask for.

  7. I’m not terribly fond of these “Innocence Projects’

    “The first time I wrote about Alstory Simon, then a Milwaukee north sider, was in 1999, right after he confessed to a double murder in Chicago.

    Simon’s shocking admission — not to police but to an investigator working for Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project — led to the release and pardon of a man on death row for the crime, and ultimately to the death penalty being abolished in Illinois.

    Two years later, I wrote about Simon again. This time he had reached out to me from prison to say the confession and subsequent guilty plea were involuntary. He insisted he was innocent, as do most inmates who send letters to reporters from prison.

    My column was not sympathetic. His confession was right there on videotape for everyone to see, including the detail that he had “busted off about six rounds.”

    Last week, Simon walked out of prison a free man after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced that her office, after a yearlong investigation, was vacating the charges against him and ending his 37-year sentence.

    The investigation by the Medill Innocence Project, she said, “involved a series of alarming tactics that were not only coercive and absolutely unacceptable by law enforcement standards, they were potentially in violation of Mr. Simon’s constitutionally protected rights.””

    Will lawyers involved in the coercion behind the the Medill Innocence Project (which set free an evil guilty man and jailed an innocent) one be disbarred?

    All of these investigations are just attempts to overturn the death penalty, rather than to free the innocent, so I do not trust their motives or their findings.
    Moreover, the cases and the subsequent rulings suggest that the entire police-legal-court-prison system is arbitrary and capricious.
    You can’t trust any of them at the start, then why trust them later when they change their minds?

    It all reveals an abandonment of the rule of law, much like Obama has done, and probably for the same reasons.

  8. “Texas Ranger Coffman testified at trial that his investigation showed “at least three and possibly four” perpetrators were in the Davis home when the murders occurred.

    So is Texas Ranger Coffman going to jail, too?

    “According to Sebesta, Carter almost immediately claimed, “I did it all myself, Mr. Sebesta. I did it all myself.” When Sebesta stated that he knew that was not true because of the number of weapons used, Carter quickly changed his story and claimed that he committed the murders with Graves and a third man called “Red.” Carter had earlier implicated a person named “Red” during the murder investigation, and the State believed that Theresa Carter may have been known by that nickname.

    The polygraph examiner concluded that Carter was not being truthful in either response. Id. When the polygraph results were explained to him, Carter once more changed his story. He now admitted that Cookie was involved in the murders with himself and Graves. He also stated that he had invented the character “Red” but later admitted that Cookie was sometimes called “Red.” Id. When Sebesta asked him if Theresa had used the hammer in the murders, Carter answered “yes.”

    So Carter was lying, repeatedly.

    “The magistrate also found that this statement was not material because Carter’s claim that he acted alone contradicted the evidence and because the jury already had considerable evidence of Carter’s multiple inconsistencies and credibility issues.

    As to the statement linking Carter’s wife Cookie as a direct participant in the crimes, the magistrate found that the defense did not exercise due diligence to discover the statement after Sebesta told them about the polygraph results. He also found that the statement is not exculpatory because it implicated Graves based on the government’s three person theory. The statement would also have contradicted the testimony of one of Graves’ witnesses who testified that Cookie and Graves were not close and that Cookie was home at the time of the murders. “

    But this makes sense:
    “If both statements had been timely furnished to Graves, he could have persuasively argued that (1)
    the murders were committed by Carter alone or by Carter and Cookie; and (2) Carter’s plan from the beginning was to exonerate Cookie, but a story that he acted alone was not believable, so he
    implicated Graves so the prosecution would accept his story and decline to prosecute Cookie.

    That is, it was not possible Carter acted alone, that Graves could have claimed Carter and his girlfriend did it and that Carter implicated Graves only to save his girlfriend.

    Yeah, that’s plausible.
    Carter and Graves were related, so it’s also plausible that they’re all lying.
    Carter named Graves pretty quickly, then years later changes his story.
    Why is his later story more believable than the earlier one?

    Not enough there to convict a man and send him to death, but not exactly ‘innocent.’

  9. He lost his license to practice…..
    He was a liar and cheated. He committed the crime of perjury. He was in open court and said that a man was guilty whom he had framed. He did this per a jury. That is why we call it perjury. The prosecutor needs to be sent to prison. For two times the amount of time that the victim spent in prison.

  10. This prosecutor really went out of his way to convict the defendant. It would be interesting to know what his motive was. Perhaps he was trying to acquire a record as a “tough prosecutor” as a springboard to higher office (District Attorney or judge) or was planning to run for political office. It is refreshing that he has been punished. Other than this case and the Duke lacrosse team prosecutor, I’ve never heard of a prosecutor facing consequences. The federal government is just as bad. I’ve read some scathing cases of a judge pillorying DOJ prosecutors for misconduct, but they don’t even lose their jobs, much less their law licenses.

  11. Scant details in this story.
    “However, just a day before the trial, Carter told Sebesta he acted alone and Graves was not involved.
    How do we know that happened?
    How do we know it was true?
    People lie on the stand all the time.

    “a special prosecutor found in 2010 that there was no credible evidence that Graves was involved in the murders.
    So why don’t you disbar the defense and judge as incompetent?
    Heck, fine or jail the jury members for the same reason.

    If there really was “no credible evidence that Graves was involved in the murders”, why wasn’t this presented at the trial?

    Worse, the news article cited “The Making of a Murderer”, which is trying to exonerate a very evil and guilty man, so I dunno about this.
    Why should I trust the writers or the special prosecutor about their conclusions?

    There’s plenty of government prosecutorial incompetence around (**cough**Baltimore**cough ** ) warranting disbarment.
    This case reads too much like inside baseball to me, and I have little faith in the government.

  12. I see these cases where clear evidence is presented that would prove someone is wrongfully convicted and yet the prosecutor fights tooth and nail to not have the case retried. What incentive or motivation would have to exist to make someone so insensitive to do something like that? I would hold a prosecutor in higher esteem for seeking justice rather than some “clean” prosecution record.

  13. Another huge problem, aside from Sebesta not going to prison, is that Graves’ conviction was reversed in 2006, yet he wasn’t exonerated until 2010. Despicable on all fronts.

  14. I agree with Darren. He is being treated “unfairly” in that he deserves to be criminally prosecuted.

  15. Unfairly treated? Lucky I would say he is…Lucky he will be disbarred rather than behind bars where he should be.

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