News 01.21.14

New Law Gives Texas Exoneree Chance to Hold Former DA Accountable

A recently passed law in Texas that extends the period of time in which complaints of prosecutorial misconduct can be filed will enable a man exonerated from death row to file a new grievance against the district attorney who helped convict him based on perjured testimony.

 

In 1994,

Anthony Graves

was convicted of murdering a Somerville, Texas, woman along with her daughter and her four young grandchildren. His conviction was based on the false testimony of Robert Carter, who confessed to the 1992 murders and implicated Graves as his accomplice. Carter later recanted, stating that Graves had no involvement in the grisly crime, but former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta pressured Carter into falsely testifying on the stand at Graves’ trial, leading the jury to believe that Graves was guilty. Graves was sentenced to death for the crime that he did not commit.

 

Graves was released from prison in 2010, more than 16 years after having been wrongfully convicted and four years after a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that Sebesta had engaged in misconduct in Graves’ case. Upon his exoneration, Graves filed a complaint against Sebesta, but it was denied because of a four-year statute of limitations for prosecutorial misconduct grievances. The

Austin Chronicle

reports, however, that a new law passed in Texas last year will enable Graves to file a formal complaint with the State Bar until October of this year. According to the law, complaints can now be filed four years from the time of release from prison. The new law was passed in response to the case of Michael Morton, who, based on the misconduct of former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson, was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to life in prison before he was exonerated in 2011 after serving 25 years in prison.

 

The

Chronicle

reports that Graves hopes to see Sebesta and the Texas criminal justice system held accountable for their role in his being wrongfully convicted. Graves wrote in an email to the

Chronicle

: “I am filing this grievance in hopes of restoring faith in our criminal justice system. . . . No one is above the law, and everyone should be held accountable – including prosecutors who abuse their authority, and I’m asking the state of Texas to support me in my efforts at seeking justice.”

 

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