Leading attorneys in Texas has filed a rare complaint against a judge who refused to keep an office open for 20 minutes in a final death row appeal. The complaint names Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller and alleges that she violated a host of judicial codes of conduct.
On Sept. 25th, Michael Richard was executed. However, just a few hours earlier, the Supreme Court had accepted two Kentucky cases on whether lethal injection is unconstitutional as a mean of execution. Various judges halted executions pending the outcome. However, Keller refused a request to keep the clerk’s office open just 20 minutes to allow the papers to be filed.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has also been cited for failing to act to stop the execution.
Keller ordered the courthouse door locked at 5 p.m. even though she knew of the good-faith appeal and that appellate judges said they were prepared to stay late to consider defense arguments.
Keller, a Republican, dismissed any concerns and replied “I think the question ought to be why didn’t they file something on time? They had all day.” In reality, they did not have all day, since the ruling came down only hours before and papers had to be drafted.
The fact that this is a final death case makes Keller’s action shocking in the extreme. The duty of a judge is first and foremost to do justice and there is nothing more important than the final justice of the death penalty. Keller will become a poster jurist for demands to end the death penalty. She shows that even the most minor procedural accommodations can be denied in such cases. The fact is that the Supreme Court is likely to uphold lethal injection, but this will only be known when a final decision is rendered by the high court. By locking the court doors, Keller cut off access to the appellate courts. It shows a total lack not only of judicial temperament but humanity. For the full story, click here