Prosecutor Disbarred for Withholding Testimony in Death Penalty Case

It’s incredibly rare for a prosecutor to be held responsible in any way for withholding of falsifying evidence in a criminal case, even one that sends someone to death row. To be disbarred for it is virtually unheard of, but that is what happened to a former DA in Texas:

A former Texas prosecutor lost his law license Friday after the State Bar of Texas determined he withheld evidence and falsified testimony to win a capital murder conviction against now-exonerated death row inmate Anthony Graves.

A three-person panel determined Charles Sebesta committed “professional misconduct” when he prosecuted Graves in 1994 for the slaying of six people, four of them children. While the conviction was overturned in 2006, Graves wasn’t released until 2010, after spending 18 years in prison, 12 of those on death row…

In the six-page ruling, the State Bar’s disciplinary panel said Sebesta failed to provide evidence that may have cleared Graves of wrongdoing, including withholding a co-defendant’s testimony that he acted alone in the murders.

More of this, please. A lot more. Falsifying or withholding evidence in a criminal trial should result in an automatic disbarment. It absolutely eliminates any chance of justice and destroys innocent lives. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a prosecutor is proven to have done so, they should have to serve the sentence of the person they wrongfully convicted.

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  • marcus

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a prosecutor is proven to have done so, they should have to serve the sentence of the person they wrongfully convicted.

    I don’t think this would ever pass constitutional muster, nor be reasonable or desirable.

    I mean, would you support executing a prosecutor who was guilty of this? Probably not.

    Certainly, prosecution for criminal conduct and civil rights violations with hefty fines and the possibility of appropriate jail time would be reasonable and a step in the right direction.

  • D. C. Sessions

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a prosecutor is proven to have done so, they should have to serve the sentence of the person they wrongfully convicted.

    That’s so Old Testament. It would never go over in the Bible Belt, where the Christian values of mercy and forgiveness have replaced Old Testament jurisprudence.

  • moarscienceplz

    Betcha he’s a Christian. Also bet he’s got some weaselly excuse for blatantly breaking one of the Big Ten.

  • colnago80

    Hey, what’s ole Mikey Nifong doing these days?

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R2XG9CnOj8 Olav

    Ed:

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a prosecutor is proven to have done so, they should have to serve the sentence of the person they wrongfully convicted.

    That is indeed a bit oldtestamentian. An eye for an eye? I do agree that such conduct by a prosecutor should be treated as a crime, with the possibility of a prison sentence in certain cases. Essentially it is a crime against the person who is wrongfully convicted AND against the justice system.

  • velociraptor

    There is zero reason to show mercy to people guilty of a crime such as this, and make no mistake, it is a crime. The man in question witheld evidence for a capital conviction, demonstrating extreme depravity and disregard for life, presumably for a noch on a resume.

    Fuck that piece of shit. Run enough electricity through him to light up Manhattan, and confiscate everything he owns and give it to the victim. Until swine like this see real consequences for their actions, this shit will continue.

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    Would this have happened if Mr. Graves were already in a grave?

    Very likely, no. US courts refuse to hear the appeals of prisoners who have already been murdered executed, and do all they can to prevent reinvestigation (e.g. destroying evidence).

    http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-infamous-cases-of-wrongful-execution.html

    Admitting they killed an innocent person would mean legal repercussions for those involved and financial liability for the state. It’s so much easier to cover up the crime of false and malicious prosecution.

  • frankgturner

    @ velociraptor #6

    There is a small part of me that has argued for years that the only way “some” people (very few, but a few is enough) would obey moral law is out of fear of cruel and unusual punishment. I still don’t think it is justified but it does cross my mind.

  • blf

    Whilst I have some sympathy with Ed’s suggestion, I also recognize it has many problems. Having said that, another flawed idea I myself haved toyed with for some time goes something like this (for a certain obvious subset of cases): “If a person is sentenced to death, but is determined by due process to have been wrongly convicted for any reason, then the judge, jury, and prosecutor (at least) of the death-sentencing trial are all guilty of the murder or attempted murder of the wrongly-convicted and shall be put to death.”

    The flaws are obvious and I shall not enumerate them, except for the most (in my option) glaring: That there is such a thing as the “death penalty”.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    First, I’m anti-death penalty. I’m also against life-without-the-possibility-of-parole. [though I’m of course okay with only granting the possibility of parole, and expect some people on life sentences would never earn that parole]

    But after those are taken off the table, I would be in favor of enacting statutes that create crimes with a maximum sentence for a prosecutor who fraudulently convicts another that would be equal (or approximately so) to the maximum sentence the defendant faced.

    This is one area of constitutional law where I’m completely ignorant. Marcus @1 says that it might not pass constitutional muster.

    Why would that be? What would be the constitutional issues?

  • scienceavenger

    Oh, but this is just another conspiracy of “the left” to disbar conservatives:

    http://townhall.com/columnists/rachelalexander/2015/06/15/the-left-disbars-another-conservative-prosecutor-n2012476

  • marcus

    Crip Dyke @ 10

    IANAL but I think the relativity of the sentence would be problematical. In our system, generally speaking, crime x requires punishment y, taking various considerations into account (mitigating circumstances, violent behavior, use of a firearm, lack of remorse, etc.).

    I think it would be much more likely that if a statute were established to punish crimes such as these that it would of necessity require a more traditional sentencing structure.

    Perhaps there is a real lawyer out there that has a more considered opinion.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “Fuck that piece of shit. Run enough electricity through him to light up Manhattan, and confiscate everything he owns and give it to the victim. Until swine like this see real consequences for their actions, this shit will continue.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I could have used a lot more ugliness, though!

  • marcus

    @ Ed, 6, and 13 Sorry, I thought we were talking about things that might actually fucking happen within the boundaries of the time/space continuum that we inhabit.

    But hey, I’m not against just jerking off either!