DALLAS (AP) – The prosecutor who tried a now-exonerated Texas death row inmate could face the loss of his law license over allegations that he withheld evidence and used false testimony to win a conviction.
An attorney for the exonerated inmate, Anthony Graves, said Monday that the State Bar of Texas had found “just cause” to proceed with a hearing against Charles Sebesta, the former district attorney in Burleson County.
Kathryn Kase, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, said the state bar notified her they were moving forward with a grievance filed by Graves in January. Sebesta also confirmed the state bar’s finding.
Sebesta prosecuted Graves, who was condemned for the 1992 slayings of six people. He would spend more than a decade on death row.
One witness, Robert Earl Carter, was also given a death sentence for the killings and testified that Graves was his accomplice. But Carter would recant that testimony later, including in the moments just before he was executed.
A federal appeals court reversed Graves’ conviction in 2006. It found Sebesta withheld that Carter told a grand jury that he committed the murders alone, and then allowed Carter and another witness to give false testimony.
A special prosecutor then appointed to investigate the case again found that Graves should be freed and declared innocent.
Since his release in 2010, Graves has called for Sebesta to be disbarred and punished. Graves said Monday that Sebesta was essentially guilty of “attempted murder” for pushing a prosecution that sent him to death row.
“We care about justice in our state,” Graves said. “It’s part of the initiation process to reform by holding this prosecutor accountable.”
A three-person panel is expected to hear evidence in private. It could dismiss the allegations, issue a public reprimand or recommend Sebesta’s disbarment, Kase said.
Sebesta has said he continues to believe Graves is guilty and posted extensively about the case on his personal website. He said Monday that the state bar had already reviewed his conduct and cleared him once, in 2007.
“It’s over,” Sebesta said in an interview. “You get one bite at the apple and they’ve taken it and that’s it.”
Prosecutors in Texas have rarely been punished for wrongdoing in the more than 140 exonerations in the state. The highest-profile example is the disbarment of the prosecutor who tried Michael Morton, a Central Texas man wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years for the murder of his wife.
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