December 13, 2007
Keller violated court policies

She admits it herself.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller apparently violated court policies for handling death penalty cases when she closed the court clerk's doors on Michael Richard's efforts to file a last-minute appeal before his execution.

In response to a national outcry against Keller's actions, the court adopted written policies last month to make certain a death row inmate's appeals always go first to an assigned judge.

In response to a public information request from the Houston Chronicle, Keller said in a letter that no written court procedures existed Sept. 25, the day of Richard's execution. However, she said the new written rules reflected the court's unwritten policies on that day.

Keller was not the judge assigned to handle Richard's appeal when she decided to close the clerk's office so that Richard's lawyers could not file a late appeal.

Judge Cheryl Johnson was in charge of Richard's case on the day of his execution, but did not learn of his lawyers' attempts to file for a stay of execution until the day after his death.

A lawyer who has been representing other attorneys in filing complaints against Keller for her handling of the Richard case said Keller's response to the Chronicle's information request clearly shows Keller violated the court's unwritten policies in cutting off Richard's appeal.

"To me, it's a pretty stunning admission that she operated totally outside of their procedures," said Jim Harrington, who has coordinated attorney complaints filed against Keller with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. "She doesn't have respect for the processes of the court, which are designed to protect due process."


In its public information request, the Chronicle asked for the state appeals court procedures for handling death penalty cases on the day of Richard's execution.

"No written policies regarding those matters existed on that date (Sept. 25)," Keller wrote. "Subsequent to that date, the court reduced to writing the unwritten policies that did exist on that date."

The written policy the court later adopted said the judge assigned to the case should stay on duty on the day of an execution until the execution occurs. The policy also said "all communications regarding the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned judge."

Can we please get her off the bench now? What more do we need to take action?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 13, 2007 to Crime and Punishment

In other words, she knew she was violating the rules of the court but since they weren't in writing, somehow the rules didn't matter?

Sharon Keller is representative of the disasters we have on our benches as a result of flag-waving Republicans voting straight tickets without even bothering to look at the backgrounds, and experience, often the lack of experience, of the people they are putting on the benches.

Judicial races should not be allowed to be partisan. And both parties should be forbidden from identifying the candidates as "one of theirs." If they do, the candidate is removed from the ballot.

We have had a couple of Democratic disasters. But none on the level of Sharon Keller.

Her admission she knew it was against the rules of the court should be sufficient reason to resign. Since she won't, hopefully it will be sufficient basis to remove her.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on December 14, 2007 12:06 AM