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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Texas prosecutor who sent man to death row for crime he didn’t commit seeks to keep law license

Anthony Graves
Anthony Graves
A lawyer for Charles Sebesta, the ex-prosecutor who secured the wrongful death sentence of Anthony Graves, told a panel of the State Bar of Texas on Friday that he should not be disbarred based on technicalities in the rules that govern lawyer discipline.

In June, the Texas State Bar revoked the law license of Sebesta, the former Burleson County district attorney, finding that he had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in Graves’ wrongful conviction.

Graves was sentenced to death in 1994 and spent 18 years behind bars, including 12 on death row, for a fiery multiple murder. He was close to execution twice.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction in 2010. The court found that Sebesta secured Graves’ conviction through several instances of prosecutorial wrongdoing, including withholding key evidence and suborning false testimony.

Sebesta appealed the disbarment, arguing that in 2007 the agency had already ruled that there was no cause to disbar him in response to an earlier complaint about his work in the Graves case.

In 2007, while Graves was still in prison, the Bar dismissed a complaint regarding Sebesta’s conduct in the case, finding that the statute of limitations on the alleged wrondgoing had expired.

Graves filed a new complaint in 2014, after lawmakers changed the statute of limitations for prosecutors accused of misconduct. Under the new law, those who have been wrongly convicted have up to four years after their release to seek discipline against prosecutors who engage in conduct such as withholding evidence and eliciting false testimony.

Jane Webre, who was defending Sebesta before the disciplinary board, argued that bar rules prevent the board from making a different ruling on Graves’ recent complaint after it already determined the former prosecutor wasn’t subject to disbarment for his role in that conviction.


Source: The Dallas Morning News, Brandi Grissom, January 29, 2016

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