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Texas Disciplinary Appeals Board Upholds Disbarment of State Prosecutor

On February 8, 2016, the Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals, appointed by the state Supreme Court, upheld the disbarment of former prosecutor Charles J. Sebesta, Jr. for using tainted testimony and false statements to obtain a death sentence against now-exonerated former prisoner Anthony Graves. Graves served 18 years in prison, including a dozen years on death row, before a special prosecutor determined in 2010 that there was no credible evidence he had been involved in setting a fire that killed six people. [See: PLN, June 2012, p.16; April 2012, p.22].

Graves had actively sought to have Sebesta disbarred and filed a grievance with the Texas State Bar in January 2014. Over a year later, the organization’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel found “just cause” to hold a disciplinary hearing on ethics violations.

Sebesta, who was initially disbarred by a three-member evidentiary panel on June 11, 2015 following a four-day hearing, vigorously maintained on appeal that he was being unfairly treated and that Graves’ conviction was just.

“In rejecting Sebesta’s argument, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals found that Charles Sebesta’s misconduct was so egregious that they characterized him as having ‘unclean hands.’ That certainly is a fitting description,” said Graves’ pro bono attorney, Neal Manne. See: Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Sebesta, BoDA No. 56406, SBOT Case No. 201400539, 2016.

In 2013 another former Texas prosecutor, Ken Anderson, served four days in jail and forfeited his law license for intentionally concealing evidence to secure a murder conviction against Michael Morton. Morton served almost 25 years of a life sentence before he was exonerated and freed in 2011. [See: PLN, Nov. 2014, p.1].


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Related legal case

Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Sebesta