New Insights into Recent Texas Exoneration from Death Row

More information has emerged about the wrongful conviction of Anthony Graves (pictured), who was exonerated from Texas’s death row in 2010. Prosecutor Kelly Siegler, who had tried many capital murder cases and sent 19 people to death row as a Harris County assistant district attorney, and Otto Hanak, a state trooper and Texas Ranger for 28 years, were brought into the case after an appeals court found that the original prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, had withheld statements from the defense and elicited false testimony. It was originally thought that Siegler would retry the case against Graves. According to prosecutor Siegler, Sebesta used ethically questionable tactics to persuade a co-defendant to testify against Graves. Sebesta also violated the rules of evidence by introducing only a partial transcript of a taped interview of the co-defendant and not introducing the actual tape. During her investigations, Siegler was never able to find the tape of the interview. When the co-defendant faced execution in 2000, he admitted that he lied about Graves’s involvement in the crime. After reviewing 19 boxes of evidence and interviewing more than 50 witnesses, Siegler and Hanak independently concluded that Graves was not guilty. Siegler said, “There came a time I believed he was innocent, but I wanted Otto to arrive at that on his own. One morning he came in and said, ‘I don’t think he did it.’” Hanak added, “In all these years I’ve been in this business, I never thought I would be party to saving someone who was on death row.” The original prosecutor, Charles Sebesta, plans to take out full page ads explaining his side of the story. “We’ve got some things on Siegler that when push comes to shove, we’ve got things that are going to sink her ship,” he said.

(H. Rice, “How Siegler unmade case,” Houston Chronicle, December 16, 2010). See Arbitrariness and Innocence.