Saturday, February 19, 2005

Lone Star Justice

From the Houston Chronicle:

Judge refuses retrial for death row inmate

"A federal judge has refused to order a new trial for convicted killer Anthony Graves despite evidence of misconduct by the prosecution during his 1994 trial.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent in Galveston on Thursday upheld a November opinion by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner that said a jury would have convicted Graves despite prosecutorial misconduct.

Froeschner found that Charles Sebesta, former district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, withheld a statement by key prosecution witness Robert Carter that Graves was not involved in the 1992 slaying of six family members in Somerville. Graves was sentenced to death and Carter was executed for the slayings.

In sending the case to Galveston, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Carter's statement, 'if proven, was extremely favorable to Graves and would have been powerful ammunition for counsel to use in cross-examining Carter.'

Froeschner found it should have been made available to the defense, but that a jury probably would have convicted Graves anyway."

I'm not familiar with the case, but two things are worth noting. First, the article also says that the Texas Innocence Network claims to have additional evidence that was not considered by either Kent or Froeschner. Second, whatever was going on here smelled so bad that the 5th Circuit, a historically pro-death penalty court, sent it back to the state.

Certainly a happy coincidence for Judge Froeschner that the state has already executed the exculpatory witness.


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