In 1994, Anthony Graves was convicted for Capital Murder in the deaths of six Somerville, Texas residents and sentenced to death by lethal injection. The conviction was overturned in 2006 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that the then District Attorney, Charles Sebesta, withheld a statement given by a co-defendant, Robert Carter, who said that he committed the murders all by himself. The State Bar cleared Sebesta of any wrongdoing in the case. Now the Texas Legislature is considering legislation that would make it a Third Degree Felony for a prosecutor to withhold information favorable to a defendant on trial for an alleged felony offense. Here is Sebesta’s response to that proposed legislation:
I am in total agreement with the provisions of a bill introduced in the Texas Legislature this session that would make it a Third Degree Felony for a Prosecutor to withhold evidence favorable to a defendant on trial for an alleged felony. There is absolutely no justification or excuse for such conduct.
Had a law similar to this been on the books in 2006 when the U.S. Fifth Circuit reversed the death penalty conviction of Anthony Graves, the allegations of Prosecutorial Misconduct would have been ‘automatically’ referred to a grand jury for the purpose of determining whether or not Anthony Graves’ attorneys were told about a co-defendants statement saying that he had committed the murders all by himself. And it would have been resolved, with either an indictment or a no-bill. From a personal perspective, it would have also brought closure to an issue that has become a ‘one-sided political football’ in the media.
The evidence that would have been presented to that grand jury would have been ‘identical’ to that heard by a State Bar Grievance Committee; and the outcome rendered by both the State Bar and the grand jury would have been quite similar. All allegations of Prosecutorial Misconduct on my part were dismissed by the State Bar; and a grand jury, had it had an opportunity to hear the case, would have returned a ‘No-bill!’
Why? Because nowhere in the record does it say Charles Sebesta didn’t provide that information to Graves’ attorneys. Graves’ lead counsel, Calvin Garvie, was asked under oath during an ‘Evidentiary Hearing’ before a Federal Magistrate in 2004 if Mr. Sebesta had told him about Carter’s statement saying that he had committed the murders all by himself. Garvie responded by saying that he didn’t “recall” if he had been told. >>readmore