Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who has been formally accused of violating her duty as a judge in the matter of the Michael Richard case, has filed her response to the State Commission on Judicial Ethics. (For which she was given an extension, because she couldn’t get it done in time. God really does have a sense of humor.)
Keller said the Texas Defender Service has filed previous death penalty appeals with the court after the clerk’s office closed. She also noted that the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure allow for after-hours appeals to be filed either with the clerk or a judge of the court willing to accept the case.
Keller said all the judges of the court are listed in the blue pages of the telephone book and the phone number of court General Counsel Ed Marty phone number was listed on his letterhead and known to (the defender service.)
She said when Marty called her on the day of the execution about a defender service request that the clerk’s office stay open late, she understood that only to be about the clerk’s office, not Richard’s ability to file an appeal.
“Judge Keller did not, and could not have, if she had wanted to, close access to the court in light (of the appellate procedure rules),” said the brief by her lawyer, Chip Babcock.
You can find a copy of the full response here. You might then want to reread the factual allegations (PDF), or just Rick Casey’s summary, and note how casual with the truth Keller has been about this all along. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but wonder how Presiding Judge Sharon Keller would rule on this matter if it had come before her. Better hope the commission isn’t as nakedly pro-prosecution as you are, Judge.
The Texas Defender Service said Keller is trying to deflect attention because she “knowingly broke the rules” and caused Richard’s execution when he likely could have gotten a stay.
Neal Manne, counsel for the service, said the judicial conduct commission found that Keller knew she was not the assigned judge handling the Richard execution and that she should have referred the calls to that judge, Cheryl Johnson.
“The commission has properly focused on Judge Keller’s conduct, and has not in any way suggested that Texas Defender Service acted improperly or was at fault,” Manne said.
Keller’s defense, which apparently includes some last-minute edits, referenced that recent Chron story about missing deadlines in capital cases. Well, we did know that she doesn’t think she did anything wrong, so it stands to reason that someone else must be at fault. Simple, really.
No idea when the Commission may make its ruling. Any lawyers out there want to comment on her defense?