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Texas Prosecutor Disbarred for Misconduct in Anthony Graves Case

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By Peter Clarke, JD on June 15, 2015 1:10 PM

The criminal justice system may never be perfect, but maybe it's a little better following the disbarment of DA Charles Sebesta, Jr., the man who wrongfully sent Anthony Graves to death row.

The Anthony Graves case made just about everyone skeptical of the criminal justice system. What sort of system allows a completely innocent man to found guilty of murdering six people? Although Graves was exonerated, the facts of the case only came to light due to an unlikely chain of events.

Blame the Prosecutor

Sebesta served for 25 years as a district attorney in Texas. Following Graves' exoneration, the media began to question the fact that the prosecutor could still practice law. It had become clear to everyone that the "bad guy" in this case was not the system at large, but this one specific prosecutor.

The findings of misconduct became widely known after a Fifth Circuit ruling in 2006. The court found that Sebesta withheld information that would have revealed Graves' innocence. He also sealed Graves' fate by obtaining false statements from important witnesses in the case.

Disciplinary Panel Disbars Sebesta

In June 2015, five years after Graves was exonerated, a disciplinary panel found that Prosecutor Sebesta violated five tenets of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. These violations included:

  1. Making false statements of material fact or law to a tribunal.
  2. Knowingly offer or use evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.
  3. Failing to make timely disclosure to the defense for all evidence that tends to negate guilt or mitigate the offense.
  4. Violating professional conduct rules or knowingly inducing others to do so.
  5. Engaging in dishonest, fraudulent, or deceitful conduct.

As a result of these findings of misconduct, Charles Sebesta, Jr. has finally been disbarred. The question remains whether or not this is a sufficient punishment for the violations. As a direct result of his conduct, Graves spent 18 years of his life in prison.

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