She spends several paragraphs reiterating the facts of Michael Richard’s case (the “he had it coming” defense), explains that Richard was not seeking not to be executed, but rather not to be executed using the current protocol (the “only hastening the inevitable” defense) and points the finger at Court of Criminal Appeals counsel Edward Marty and Richard’s lawyers (the “some other dude did it” defense).Sounds like she's squirming a bit, doesn't it? Even more deliciously, writes Bennett:
My second favorite part of the answer is where Judge Keller claims that “If applied to these charges [Article 5] Section I-a(6)A [of the Texas Constitution] is unconstitutional under the United States and Texas Constitutions.” So part of the Texas Constitution is itself unconstitutional under the Texas Constitution.Genius! You can't make this stuff up! You see the same kind of tortured, circuitous logic routinely in her opinions, but it's great to see it on public display in a case drawing national attention.
Bennett's favorite part, though, involves Keller "whining about having to pay the counsel of her choice." She's asking for taxpayers to cover her attorney's fees after retaining Chip Babcock, one of the best-known, highest-priced lawyers in the state, to represent her. Writes Bennett:
If there is a constitutional right to counsel in this (non-criminal) case, it certainly doesn’t provide for a judge who isn’t indigent to get counsel at the taxpayers’ expense. And Judge Keller, whose salary is at least $150,000 a year and who, by her own admission, “own[s] a considerable amount of property” — including (in 1999) a $1.3 million piece of land in Dallas, landlord to a topless bar –is certainly not indigent.MORE: From Rick Casey at the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times' Lede Blog.
Even if Judge Keller were entitled to appointed counsel, she would not be entitled to reasonable counsel of her choice. The State is not required to ‘purchase for an indigent defendant all the assistance that his wealthier counterparts might buy.’” Keller knows this, of course, because she joined in the opinion (Griffith v. State — WPD).
Judge Keller says she’s being forced to choose either to “defend herself pro se or risk a financially ruinous legal bill to defend against these charges which are without merit.” Why Babcock’s bill for defending meritless charges should be ruinous to the millionaire scion of a wealthy Dallas family is a mystery, but if this is a legitimate concern (and it must be, since the Honorable Sharon Keller herself swore to its truth) then Judge Keller might do what the working poor often have to do in criminal cases, and hire the lawyer she can afford rather than the lawyer she wants. The right to effective counsel is not the right to the best possible counsel.If that idea is too unpalatable to her — if the Greenhill School girl can’t conceive of having anything but the absolute best — she can always fall back on daddy’s money. And if she finds herself too proud to ask daddy Jack for help, there’s one other option. There would be no ethical issue with Chip Babcock helping her for free, if only she were no longer a judge.