Thursday, October 28, 2010

After 16 years, the state (finally) does the right thing

Anthony Graves is a free man once again. After spending 12 years on death row and the last four years in a Burleson County jail, Mr. Graves is free to wake up and go to sleep when he wants, to eat what he wants and to do what he wants.

Mr. Graves is a free man because the current Washington and Burleson County District Attorney realized it wasn't right to keep a man behind bars after the only witness against him recanted his testimony to prosecutors the night before trial. A trial that took place in 1994.

That's right. The original prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, knew before the trial ever commenced that he was suborning perjury from Robert Earl Carter, the actual killer. Two weeks before his execution in 2000, Mr. Carter signed a sworn statement saying that Mr. Graves had nothing to do with the murders. While he was strapped on the gurney in the death chamber, Mr. Carter once again stated that Mr. Graves had nothing to do with the murders.

And now, after holding Mr. Graves for four years pending a retrial, the District Attorney is ready to admit his office was wrong.

Mr. Graves was 26 when he was taken into custody and now he's 45. No amount of money can ever compensate him or his family for the 18 years that were taken away. No apology, no matter how profuse, can make up for the time that was stolen from him.

The prosecutors in this case are not to be honored as heroes. They were only doing what should have been done 16 years ago. There is no honor in that.

See also:

"Anthony Graves: Innocent and free 16 years after unfounded death sentence" Grits for Breakfast, Oct. 27, 2010

"Innocence lost" Texas Monthly, October 2010


Joni Mueller said...

Oh, Paul, I KNEW you wouldn't let this one get past you. It's shocking and sad, but the saddest part of all is if you read the comments on the story at KTRK online. People bellyaching b/c they think the D.A. dropped the ball when if they read the story correctly, they'll see that the poor man was "fingered" by the guy who ended up confessing he himself was the only one involved. The D.A. was just doing their job by investigating every lead. They surely cannot be expected to assume that when a suspect points a finger elsewhere that that lead is always a red herring. And as for the money he's getting for his inconvenience, IMHO, he deserves every penny he can get; it won't bring back the lost years but it may ease the transition back to "normal" life as a free man. Gah.

Joni Mueller said...

Oh, and thanks for the link to the Texas Monthly article; I'd been looking for that. :)

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

You're more than welcome and thanks for the comment. The problem is not whether or not the DA believed the killer when he recanted the night before trial; the problem is the DA didn't disclose that information to the defense and that failure was continuous.

A prosecutor has an ethical duty to see that justice is done - not to notch his belt with each conviction.