It’s probably time for the State of Texas to stop bragging about how many people it executes. Well, in point of fact, it’s probably been quite some time since that became fact. However, the new developments in the state, being reported on by multiple outlets, prove this point with crystal clarity.
As reported by The Huffington Post this week, a former prosecutor in the Lone Star State has been disbarred for helping to condemn a man to death row based on tainted evidence and false testimony. Charles Sebesta was stripped of his right to practice law in Texas by The Board of Disciplinary appeals for helping to get Anthony Graves put on the state’s death row for 18 years before finally having his conviction overturned. Essentially, Sebesta had already gotten one conviction for a murder, and tried to push the convicted man into naming another person, Graves, as an accomplice. When that convicted person refused, Sebesta didn’t let that stop him, and he pushed to convict Sebesta anyway, presenting a false witness to testify, sort of a big no-no for those charged with prosecuting the law.
Sebesta then presented false testimony implicating Graves, crucial in a conviction since there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, it said.
Before Graves’ attorney was to present the alibi witness, Sebesta falsely stated in court that the witness was a suspect in the murders and could be indicted. The witness refused to testify and left the court, it said.
Thank all that his holy and unholy in this world that Sebesta’s horrible miscarriage of justice was finally overturned. But at what cost? Graves was put on death row for nearly 20 years. That’s almost two decades of his life, robbed from him by a corrupt prosecutor. What’s worse — this could have had a truly tragic ending if Graves had been executed. Let’s be frank, the State of Texas wears its execution of prisoners on its chest like a badge of honor, and if there is one innocent man on death row, can’t we assume mistakes have been made — both intentionally and on accident — in some of those cases too?
Capital punishment is a queasy subject for me as it is; the state shouldn’t be in the business of terminating a life unless it poses a direct threat to the sovereignty of the state. Prosecutors seem to be trained to focus more on the “win/loss” column than they do on the “justice served” column. I’m not saying every prosecutor in Texas, let alone the state, is corrupt or willing to corrupt themselves to get a conviction, but Graves’ case cannot be a wholly unique situation in a country of over 330 million people, many of whom have run up against the justice system at one point or another.
If Texas isn’t going to end its use of capital punishment, I truly hope they stop bragging about it. I don’t hold any hope that they’ll actually grow up as such, but clearly they don’t bat 1.000 in this arena. It’s pretty crass and insensitive to have so much hubris over killing another human, regardless of whether they are a convicted criminal or not, but to continue to do so after being shown just one example of how tragically mistaken everyone involved can be, is downright inhumane.