February 21, 2009
The case against Keller

Rick Casey reads through the Judicial Conduct Commission case against Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Sharon Keller, and finds that her actions were worse than even I had thought.

We already knew that Keller and the other judges were aware of the Supreme Court decision. We didn't know that the court's general counsel, Edward Marty, had started drafting a proposed order in anticipation that Richard's lawyers would file a request for a stay .

Nor did we know that Judge Tom Price had drafted a dissenting opinion and circulated it to the other judges, including Keller. Nor that all the judges were notified about 2:40 p.m. that the Harris County District Attorney's Office had reported that Richard's lawyers were planning to file a request.

The Supreme Court decision was so much on the court's mind that Judge Cathy Cochran forwarded to all her colleagues a copy of the Kentucky Supreme Court decision that was being challenged.

Under court procedures, Judge Cheryl Johnson was the designated judge who was supposed to receive all messages regarding Richard's case. She and Marty planned to stay at the office to receive any messages until Richard was executed.

Chief Judge Keller went home early and was called shortly before 5 p.m. by Marty. Richard's lawyers were having computer problems and wanted the clerk's office to stay open until 5:20 or so to receive their filing. Rather than forward the message to Johnson as policy required, Keller instructed Marty to tell the lawyers no. The lawyers made attempts up until 6 p.m. to deliver the filing but were told nobody was there. Richard was executed at about 8:20 p.m.

Two days later, the Supreme Court stopped all executions by injection based on the same arguments Richard's lawyers made. Richard was the only convict executed until six months later, when the Supreme Court OK'd lethal injection as constitutional.

Here's the stunner: The morning after Richard's execution, the nine judges had their weekly conference. At the end of it some of the judges expressed surprise that Richard's lawyers hadn't submitted a filing.

Cochran even raised the question -- hypothetically, she thought -- of what would happen if the lawyers showed up after the clerk's office closed. She said the court should accept the filing anyway. According to witnesses, Keller said, "The clerk's office closes at 5 p.m. It's not a policy, it's a fact."

Keller lacked the decency or the courage to tell her colleagues about the call she had received.

What a thoroughly despicable human being. Burka thinks the end is near for her tenure on the bench - one way or another, he says, she's going to go away. All I can say is that's great if true, and long, long overdue.

Of course, she has two weeks to respond to the charges, and she's got herself a defense attorney, who I'm sure will zealously represent her interests at the public trial she'll get.

Keller will be allowed to present evidence, raise objections, and call and cross-examine witnesses in a forum that will resemble many civil court trials, said Seana Willing, executive director of the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

"The judge can put on her case and we can put on our case," Willing said.

Can't wait to hear what she has to say for herself. One thing I'm sure of is that her defense attorney will do a far better job for her than the attorneys for some of the appellants who have appeared before her ever did for them. Not that she cares, of course.

One last thing, from the Chron story:

The proceedings against Keller will take between six and 18 months to complete, Willing has said.

So I may have to wait that long after all. Alas.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 21, 2009 to Crime and Punishment

Eventually the Texas Supreme Court will decide her fate and the Republicans may decide to use her as a scapegoat to give the impression that they will not tolerate judges abusing the Constution or the law.

In reality the Republican judiciary was elected to do just that. And will continue to do so.

Some of them really are not to be believed. Either they are just arrogant or really do not know what the law is let alone what the Constitution guarantees us all in our courts in terms of the rule of law.

Most of their victims, however, don't have 300 attorneys willing to sign off on a complaint so there is no point in filing a complaint.

Until we see the majority on our benches bounced at the polls, my advice is to beg, borrow, and steal in order to hire a prominent Republican attorney to represent you.

If the civil system is any indication of the criminal system, there simply is no justice in Texas except that which you can afford to buy.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 21, 2009 5:21 PM

I am am appalled by this judges behavior, and that of the others involved. I had a loved one murdered and have been for the death penalty for most of my life. But the more I educated myself the more it just seems wrong. Where the is room for era, a system that is too flawed it just should not be happening. Up until recently I wanted to see the person who killed my relative receive the same sentence, but I don't feel that way any longer. Not when I look at the mistakes and exoneration rate.
Texas has an appalling rate of killing it's prisoners and I for one have a major problem with that on it's own, but to see this Judge just shut down over 20 minutes when a life is in the balance just makes my stomach ill. How often has something like this happened that we don't know about? How can anyone think such a Judge can be fair and impartial. It is obvious she is not. The whole system needs a rehab as far as I an many others see it. But I will save that for another day.

Posted by: Stacey on March 2, 2009 10:04 PM
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