The State Bar of Texas is investigating a complaint filed against former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta by Anthony Graves, an exonerated death row inmate who says Sebesta wrongfully prosecuted him for murders he didn't commit.
In January, Graves, who spent 18 years incarcerated before his release in October 2010, filed a grievance with the State Bar, asserting that Sebesta engaged in professional misconduct during his trial by suppressing information from the defense that Graves argues led to his wrongful conviction.
Last week, the State Bar's Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel sent Graves' attorney, Robert Bennett, a letter indicating it had accepted the complaint and, as is routine, was launching an investigation into the matter.
Graves was charged in 1992 with the murder of a 45-year-old woman, Bobbie Davis, Davis' teenage daughter and four of Davis' grandchildren, who were all found dead in a home that had been set on fire. Graves' co-defendant, Robert Carter, originally stated to Burleson County investigators that Graves had participated in the killings, but later told Texas Rangers that he named Graves because he felt pressured to identify a co-defendant and not because Graves was involved.
Despite making similar exculpatory statements to Sebesta prior to Graves' 1994 murder trial, Carter, who has since been executed, agreed to testify against Graves during Graves' trial and told jurors a different version of events that included Graves.
On his death bed, Carter once again insisted Graves was innocent.
Although he maintained his innocence throughout his trial and incarceration, the break for Graves didn't come until 2006, when the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction after concluding exculpatory evidence had been withheld from defense attorneys.
Specifically, the panel of three judges found two statements made by Carter were kept from the defense that should not have been, one being that Carter's wife was involved in the murder and the other a claim that Carter acted alone.
Four years later, after a special prosecutor reviewed the case and found no credible evidence of his guilt, Graves was freed.
Sebesta, who has maintained his belief that Graves is guilty of the 1992 murder, has 30 days to respond in writing to Graves' complaint.
At that point, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel will have 60 days to investigate the complaint and Sebesta's response to determine if just cause, or a reasonable belief that professional misconduct did occur, exists. If just cause is found, the issue will be taken to an evidentiary panel, or Sebesta could opt to have the case against him heard by a jury in a district court.