October 25, 2007
E-filing execution appeals

From the Why Didn't We Think Of This Before department:

A petition signed by 309 Texas lawyers -- including two former state Supreme Court justices -- was filed Wednesday asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to accept electronic filings to avoid a repeat of the controversial events leading to the execution of Michael Richard.

Richard was executed Sept. 25 after Presiding Judge Sharon Keller told the court clerk's office to close promptly at 5 p.m., cutting off Richard's appeals for a stay of execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day had agreed to consider whether the chemicals used in lethal injection constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

If Richard's stay request had made it through legal channels, his execution likely would have been halted until the case was decided. Another Texas inmate had his execution stayed by the Supreme Court on the same grounds as Richard was requesting.

"To help avoid a recurrence of such a tragic, unnecessary execution, petitioners ask the court to adopt a rule to permit e-filing, to facilitate and expedite the filing of papers in death penalty cases," said the petition by the Texas lawyers.

Such filings, they noted, are allowed in all the federal courts in Texas as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because the Court of Criminal Appeals was meeting in Beaumont on Wednesday, the court's spokesman, Judge Tom Price, was unavailable for comment.

Among those signing the petition were former state Supreme Court Justices Rose Spector, a Democrat, and Deborah Hankinson, a Republican. The Supreme Court handles civil matters.

Others on the petition included Houston attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Mark Lanier.

I can't come up with a single argument against this. It won't completely eliminate Five O'Clock Keller situations, since computers can still crash and email can still bounce, but it should go a long way towards reducing the probability of future reoccurrances. And besides, it just makes good common sense. Let's make this one good thing happen from the Michael Richard fiasco. It's the least we can do.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 25, 2007 to Crime and Punishment