Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Judge Sharon Keller didn't consult colleagues before rejecting last minute death penalty appeal

When Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to allow the clerk for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay open an extra 20 minutes to accept a recent death penalty appeal (Michael Richard was executed because she would not tolerate the delay), it turns out she did not consult with her colleagues on the court, some of whom stayed at work two hours late awaiting the appeal they were sure would come. When computers crashed at the Texas Defender Service and they called to ask for more time, reported Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey ("Keller shames Texas again,"):

Someone from the clerk's office called Keller, who said no. She said she wasn't told that a computer failure was the problem, as if that made any difference. It was obvious from the Supreme Court's action that a legitimate issue would be raised.

In fact, in the week since Keller's callous closing, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked one Texas execution and the Court of Criminal Appeals another, based on basically the same facts as Richard's.

Some of Keller's colleagues on the Court of Criminal Appeals were angered by her bureaucratic approach, especially since she didn't bother to inform them that an extension had been requested.

Judge Paul Womack told the Chronicle he stayed until 7 p.m.: "It was reasonable to expect an effort would be made with some haste in light of the Supreme Court (action). It was an important issue. I wanted to be sure to be available in case it was raised."

Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was assigned to handle any late motions in the Richard case, learned about the request from a story in the Austin American-Statesman, to her "utter dismay."

She told the paper: "And I was angry. If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought to have known about those things, and I ought to have been asked whether I was willing to stay late and accept those filings."

Judge Cathy Cochran told the Chronicle: "I would definitely accept anything at any time from someone who was about to be executed."

Texas Monthly a couple of years ago called the CCA Texas' worst court, but they may have undersold that idea: If the Texas CCA isn't the worst appellate court in America, I don't know who would be their competition.


Anonymous said...


This is the most callous I have ever seen the Courts since the days of GWB the HAIC.

Jaime Kenedeño said...

Here and now is the time for us to start blasting. Let me see if I can stir something up with those old farts.

One sided Justice. Different rules for each side. One side can be late and the other side needs to be 10 minutes early.einstein

Anonymous said...

Try the 9th Circuit--Einstein.

Anonymous said...

Even Einstein knew better than to trust a lawyer~
~ it will take too long to log out and then log in as me.....

Jaime Kenedeño said...

9th Circuit??

Einstein was an unintended addition

Anonymous said...

In an opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle published a month before Keller was first elected in 1994, she called the failure to impose capital punishment on convicted murderers "a human rights violation -- particularly if we take into account the human rights that murderers violate when left alive to kill again."

That oddball perception of human rights might explain how she could have so callously told the lawyers of someone about to be executed, "We close at 5", instead of allowing them to submit a late appeal that could have resulted in a stay of execution for their client while the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the lethal injection as a method of execution.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how lethal injection is painful. Are there any survivors that can share their thoughts?

Jaime Kenedeño said...

The process failed because to Sharon Keller,.........


That makes her actions malicious and abusive.

But then again, that is the way I have seen Rick James pick em and appoint em.

Baird and John "Little Hitler" Hubert fit that same aristocratic, "I am better than you", God Syndrome mold profile

Jaime Kenedeño said...

I have always wondered why they use alcohol before they stick the needle in?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I'm wondering how lethal injection is painful."

Veterinarians stopped using the same lethal "cocktail" on animals because it's inhumane, and once that happened the same cocktail began to be questioned for humans. So I'm pretty sure the "pain" claims come from animal testing, but don't know for sure.

Anonymous said...

So, until the SCOTUS rules on the constitutionality of lethal injection, it's not unconstitutional, right? In the same circumstances awaiting a ruling in Roper, were any inmates executed during the interim?

Anonymous said...

I thought the judiciary were supposed to be impartial?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm pretty sure they stayed juvie cases pending Roper, but I couldn't find the answer with a quick Google search. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

Michael said...

For any other judge, Keller's actions in this case would be an outrage. For Keller, it's par for the course. Sharon Keller has been an embarrassment to the State of Texas and to any American with respect for the legal system for her entire career in Austin. Her tenure is an example of the evil done by voters who vote straight tickets (whether it be Republican or Democratic). I am convinced that if the average Texas knew her absymal jurisprudential record, she would have been voted out of office decades ago.

Anonymous said...

I seem to recall that there were five execution dates of juvenile offenders already scheduled in Texas by convicting courts in 2005.

They were all stayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of executing juvenile offenders.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain why the execution of a capital murderer must necessarily be painless? I'm not suggesting they should be tortured to death, just wondering why it is so unjust that they might have some pain to deal with, given the crimes they've committed?

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 10/09/2007 04:15:00 PM: the point of Grits' original post is that whether lethal injection is, should be, or could be painless is a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that they are going to consider, and that Keller should not have refused to allow an appeal when she knows that the issue to be raised in the appeal is one that the Supreme Court that very morning decided to accept for consideration.

And further, it was not Keller's decision alone to make. There were other judges in the building who should have been consulted, including one judge who had been assigned the duty of handling late appeals for that specific execution.

Keller's action has damaged the integrity of the Texas justice system. She is unfit for the position she holds. The Commission on Judicial Conduct should take disciplinary action against her.

Anonymous said...

The Convict said Let's Ride.He raped and killed a mother.Shoot her in the head.Did she fill any pain our do you people care.This guy was a low life stealing everything for his coke.Maybe if it happened to you or someone in your family you might different.This convict also needs to be raped with a bat and shot in his foot,knee,hand,elbow,and after 24 hours shoot him in the head.

Ronnie Powell

Jaime Kenedeño said...

Ronnie Powell,

I have found myself wondering the same thing, why are we defending and sympathizing with a person who has been convicted of heinous unthinkable acts and without concern to the pain inflicted.

I think when we sympathize

first of all we are not aware of the evidence and the acts the person is said to have committed

next we have the possibility that maybe there is a mistake and could this person be innocent or deserve a lesser charge.

Finally, we have a right to due process and due process in the interest of justice.

When a Justice acts in this manner it makes you wonder.

Anonymous said...

Justice is a vital process in a civilized society.

A man in Washington state killed a whole lot of women. He was able to accept a plea bargain. The reason given by the DA was that a plea of life in prison was in the best interest of society.

The Supreme Court has agreed to make a determination regarding cruel and unusual punishment in executions. Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden by our Constitution.

It is not about this one man and what he did. It is about our society and the level of civilization we have achieved.

In my humble opinion, we should never execute anyone no matter what. Everytime we do, we delay the advancement of our society and its laws.

Anonymous said...

Jamie, believe it or not there are some people with the ability to know the previous crimes and conduct of a murderer, and still be able to find it possible to see them as a human being not so far removed from anyone else on the planet. Sympathy does not rely on ignorance.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" is so subjective as to be meaningless. Any punishment that is customary for a particular crime is not unusual. Any "punishment" worthy of the name would necessarily be deemed "cruel" if inflicted on someone who didn't deserve it. After all, who would consider it a kindness to be locked up for a day, much less years? And the Supreme Court has recognized over the years that "cruel and unusual" means different things as time goes on (which sounds suspicious to me coming from a group that puts so much emphasis on the intention of the framers.)

There are certainly people who feel like death is an unjust punishment no matter how painless or gentle it is. There are others who feel that the murderer should be put through the same amount of pain and suffering as his victims. IMO, the whole thing boils down to: what do most people think constitutes a just and morally defensible punishment for the crime committed. This whole issue should be left to the legislatures and the voting citizens.