Sorry, We Close at Five

One of Texas’ top criminal law judges refused to allow her court clerk to wait a few minutes to accept an appeal filed on the evening of death row inmate Michael Wayne Richard’s scheduled execution.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller had left the courthouse in the late afternoon on the execution day. Other judges were available and remained in the Courthouse, which was the protocol on days that an execution was scheduled.

Earlier that day an important Court decision had been released that put at issue whether execution by lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment. Based on this late-breaking law, Mr. Richard’s attorneys scrambled to prepare a brief of law and arrived at the Courthouse at about 5 pm. The execution was set for 6 pm.

A court clerk called Judge Keller at home to advise that Mr. Richard’s attorneys wished to file their brief. Judge Keller said “no, we close at 5.” Mr. Richards was executed by the State of Texas several hours later.

Several death row inmates later filed the same applications based on the law concerning the constitutionality of lethal injection. Their executions were stayed, pending a ruling from a higher court.

Mr. Richard’s family sued Judge Keller, however, she was protected by judicial immunity and their lawsuit was tossed out.

The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct filed discipline charges against Judge Keller for dereliction of duty. Her defence was that Mr. Richards’ criminal attorneys were at fault for the late filing. She also said there was another judge available and they ought to have appeared before the judge on duty.

The Judicial Commission publicly reprimanded Judge Keller on the basis that her conduct in refusing to accept the filing brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

Judge Keller unsuccessfully appealed the “public warning”, which speaks to the woman’s temerity.

One can only draw the conclusion that Judge Keller’s arrogance overruled her common sense. The fact is, she didn’t even have to get up off the couch. All she had to do was have her staff accept the brief and inform the judge on duty, who was apparently surprised that no appeal was filed that evening.

Shameful behavior.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


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