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Re-run: ‘Javert syndrome, Texas justice, and Satanic baby-killers’

Re-run: ‘Javert syndrome, Texas justice, and Satanic baby-killers’ September 4, 2021

This is from seven years ago. 


Charles Kuffner shares some news of justice long-delayed in Texas. This is from Pamela Colloff’s report in Texas Monthly, “Anthony Graves’ Prosecutor Finally Has to Answer for His Actions“:

It’s been eight years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder had done something unconscionable: withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction — a conviction that sent Graves to death row.

Since that federal ruling came down in 2006, granting Graves a retrial, many good things have happened: Anthony was freed from prison in 2010, after all charges against him were dropped; he was formally exonerated by the State of Texas; and he received $1.4 million in compensation for the eighteen years he spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. But the man who secured his 1994 conviction — former Burleson County DA Charles Sebesta — never faced any consequences.  The state bar took no action against him. Even when he continued to impugn Graves’ character, telling Texas newspapers as recently as this January that Graves was guilty of murder,  he did so with impunity.

The consequence of Javert Syndrome is always a double injustice. An innocent person, like Anthony Graves, winds up in prison for a crime they did not and could not have committed. And at the same time, the actual criminal remains free — uncharged and unpursued by justice.

Thus, for example, the long-delayed release and begrudging non-exoneration of the West Memphis Three finally corrected one injustice — three innocent men were no longer being imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. But for more than 20 years, the murderer of three young children in West Memphis has gone unpunished. The killer of those boys hasn’t been a fugitive, he simply got away with it as police and prosecutors infected with Javert Syndrome focused all their attention in the wrong direction.

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