Texas columnist says judge in exonerated prisoner case had conflict of interest

Liz Goodwin

The Texas judge who exonerated prisoner Anthony Graves without giving him a way to be compensated by the state for his years of incarceration is the daughter of the judge who presided over the wrongful conviction of Graves 18 years ago.

Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle writes that Judge Reva Towslee-Corbett should have recused herself from the case because of her father's involvement in the original trial. The prosecutor and defense agreed that Graves had spent 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but the words "actual innocence" were left out of the judge's order of release, a technicality that prevents Graves from receiving state compensation.

Though Towslee-Corbett could still amend the order so that Graves qualifies for $1.4 million from the state, she has made no move to do so. Burleson County D.A. Bill Parham did not ask her to amend the order in the 14-day window the law provided, even though he said publicly Graves is innocent.

Falkenberg writes:

A fact left out of most news coverage on the Graves' case is that the judge, Towslee-Corbett, is the daughter of the judge who heard the original trial that led to Graves' conviction.

Not only that. There also had always been rumors that that the elder judge, Harold Towslee, was once law partners with Charles Sebesta, the reckless prosecutor accused of botching the case with false testimony and manufactured evidence.

The elder Towslee confirmed to me over the phone Wednesday that he and Sebesta practiced law together "a long time ago, maybe the early 1970s."

(Graves: AP)