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Prosecutor Sent Innocent Man to Death Row. Now, Payback

Texas lawyer Charles Sebesta disbarred for misconduct in Anthony Graves case
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2016 2:30 PM CST
Prosecutor Sent Innocent Man to Death Row. Now, Payback
In this Oct. 28, 2010, file photo, Anthony Graves, imprisoned in Texas for nearly two decades for slayings he didn't commit, speaks at a news conference in Houston.   (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

A Texas man spent nearly two decades in prison—more than half of that time on death row—before being exonerated in 2010. But Anthony Graves didn't simply celebrate his freedom: He went after the prosecutor who put him behind bars, resulting in Charles Sebesta's disbarment by the state licensing board, Reuters reports. In response to Graves' original January 2014 complaint, the Texas State Bar yanked Sebesta's law license last June, declaring that he had taken part in "prosecutorial misconduct," as the Dallas Morning News puts it. On Monday, a panel appointed by the Texas Supreme Court upheld that ruling. The state Board of Disciplinary Appeals found that Sebesta presented false testimony and hid evidence that could have helped free Graves, who was wrongly convicted of setting a 1992 fire that killed six people.

That misconduct included not revealing to Graves' defense team that another man also convicted for the murders (and eventually executed for them) had confessed to Sebesta that he acted alone. Sebesta also reportedly made false statements in court that scared Graves' alibi witness out of testifying. Sebesta had appealed on the grounds that disciplinary procedures against lawyers had been modified and would affect his disbarment, the Texas Tribune notes. Sebesta tells Reuters that "we presented the evidence we had and felt like it was sufficient." One of Graves' lawyers, however, sees it differently. "[The board] found that Charles Sebesta's misconduct was so egregious that they characterized him as having 'unclean hands,'" he says. (There were more exonerations in the US in 2015 than ever before.)

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