Guilty Until, and After, Proven Innocent

Sebesta still insists that Graves is guilty

Anthony Graves, released from prison after 16 years, is now learning how to use a computer.
Anthony Graves, released from prison after 16 years, is now learning how to use a computer. (Courtesy of Nicole Casarez)

Here’s a thought: It’s hard for people to forget about you – and what you’ve done – if you won’t let them. That idea seems not to have impressed former Burleson County District Attorney Charles Sebesta, who was responsible for the prosecution of Anthony Graves for a grisly 1992 multiple murder in Somerville.

Graves had always maintained his innocence, and the tide in his case began to turn in 2006, after evidence uncovered by a journalism class at Houston’s University of St. Thomas helped convince the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals to toss out his conviction. The evidence showed prosecutorial misconduct by Sebesta, who the courts say hid exculpatory evidence from Graves’ defenders at trial. The state initially said it would retry Graves, but in October 2010 reversed itself and (after a lengthy Texas Monthly article by Pamela Colloff finally laid out the entire case from end to end) declared Graves an innocent man. Graves was subsequently released from prison after 16 years, 12 of them spent on death row.

In explaining their realization that Graves was innocent, the prosecutors – including former Harris County Assistant D.A. Kelly Siegler – declared unfathomable Sebesta’s persistence, without evidence, that Graves was guilty. “Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system’s nightmare,” she told reporters after Graves was freed. “It’s a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves’ trial.”

Seemingly unhumbled, Sebesta has continued to proclaim that Graves is guilty. The former D.A. recently launched his own website, which he’s calling Setting the Record Straight, wherein he details all the reasons he’s been wronged in the nearly two-decade saga, why he believes the prosecutors were wrong in declaring Graves innocent, and why he believes Graves is actually guilty. It is a long and, at times, rambling account of the case, but it yields no new evidence. He implies that Graves was involved with the wife of Robert Carter, the man who confessed to and was executed for the multiple murder – of his own son, among others – and that he and Carter made some sort of pact to keep her from being convicted for the crime, which he seems to say was at least partially her idea. Even considering the wild course this case has taken over the years, in the years and years we've been following the Graves case we've never heard such baseless speculation. Moreover, Sebesta details several ways he has been targeted, at one point claiming that Colloff actually told him during an interview, "we are going to get you alright" – an account that, to someone who knows Colloff, sounds ridiculous at best.

Interviewed by Bryan/College Station CBS station KBTX, Sebesta said he started the website to get the “facts” out there because the media has “refused to print” what he’s had to say about the case. The station also reports that Sebesta is taking out newspaper ads pimping his website and the notion that Graves is still guilty.

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courts, wrongful conviction, Anthony Graves, Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly, death penalty

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