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State Bar Moves Ahead on Grievance Against Anthony Graves' Prosecutor

The former Burleson district attorney who sent Anthony Graves to death row in 1994 will now face a formal hearing on allegations prosecutorial misconduct by the State Bar of Texas.

Anthony Graves

The State Bar of Texas has found enough evidence of alleged prosecutorial misconduct that it will launch a hearing in front of an administrative judge to determine whether former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta should be sanctioned for his role in securing a wrongful death sentence for Anthony Graves in 1994.

Kathryn Kase, a lawyer for Graves and executive director of the Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit organization that represents death row inmates, said the process will remain private until the State Bar decides whether to sanction Sebesta. Graves spent 18 years behind bars — 12 of them on death row, where he twice neared execution — before the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2006, ruling that Sebesta had used false testimony and withheld favorable evidence in the case.

The State Bar will conduct a legal proceeding, akin to a probable cause hearing. Attorneys who are facing such an investigation can choose to have the case heard in district court, before a jury or a judge, or they can choose to have an evidentiary panel consisting of attorneys and members of the public hear the case.

Graves filed a complaint against Sebesta earlier this year, alleging that Sebesta committed prosecutorial misconduct in his case. His complaint is the second one filed in the Graves case. State Bar officials have said the previous complaint was dismissed because the statute of limitations on the alleged violations had expired. In 2013, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 825, which changed the statute of limitations, allowing a wrongfully imprisoned person to file a grievance up to four years after their release from prison in cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Previously, the four-year statute began on the date the misconduct was discovered.

On his website, Sebesta defends his actions and points to the State Bar's dismissal of the previous grievance. According to his website, Sebesta was named Prosecutor of the Year in 1999 by the State Bar.

Reached at his office in Caldwell by The Texas Tribune, Sebesta said only, "I'm unaware of it."

Graves said in a statement that he was glad the State Bar is taking action on his grievance.

“I sought justice for a long time while imprisoned, having to trust the court system and the legal profession to care about justice, and to do the right thing,” Graves said.

Officials at the State Bar of Texas would not comment. The oversight agency's rules prevent officials from talking publicly about or even confirming disciplinary actions. 

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