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Keller’s day in court set for August

Not as soon as I would have liked, since I think this saga has dragged on long enough, but at least we have a date.

Mark it in ink: The trial to assess whether Judge Sharon Keller violated her duty as head of the state’s highest criminal court will begin Aug. 17 in Austin.

Neither side is willing to entertain a compromise that could derail the trial, which could last a week or longer and help determine whether Keller remains presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

“There is no possibility of Judge Keller accepting anything other than a dismissal of the charges,” said her lawyer, Chip Babcock.

That won’t happen, said Seana Willing, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which charged Keller with improperly closing her court to an after-hours appeal by death row inmate Michael Richard in 2007.His execution later that night made international headlines.

The commission might be willing to accept an agreement that included a public censure of Keller, Willing said. “But I don’t see the judge offering to accept anything that acknowledges misconduct, and that would be the only thing we would consider,” Willing said.

Well, someone’s going to walk away from this unhappy. It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to try to keep my expectations low.

Both sides are conducting discovery under civil court procedures while the commission searches for an Austin courtroom capable of handling the expected crowd. “At least for the first day or so, I imagine the trial will be heavily attended,” Willing said.

Perhaps if we sold tickets we could pay poor indigent Keller’s legal fees.

A reprimand would be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, Babcock said. A vote to remove Keller from the court, where she has sat since 1994, would be reviewed by a specially formed panel of seven appellate court judges.

I try not to constantly harp on the question of how Justice Keller would render a decision in this case if she were the one judging some other defendant, but I can’t help it. One can easily imagine attorney Babcock raising all kinds of hypertechnical points in Keller’s appeal if she gets an unfavorable ruling. One can also easily imagine Justice Keller sniffing with disdain at those technicalities, and finding a way to dismiss them regardless of their merits. Things sure do look different when you see them from an unfamiliar perspective, don’t they? Thanks to Grits for the heads up. Stand Down Project has more.

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One Comment

  1. Dud says:

    Remember, if this Judge is facing a criminal charge, her attorney must raise a zealous defense and that translates into nothing that you describe a hyper-technical. There is no such distinction; the attorneys obligation is to defend within the ethical standards applicable. Remember also, that the right to confront the charges and require the prosecution to prove their case is not a technicality, it is a right.