Sunday, July 18, 2010

Commission: Judge Casts Public Discredit on the Judiciary

Texas Judge Sharon Keller, the state's highest criminal appeals court judge, displayed conduct that "casts public discredit on the judiciary" according to a report by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

In 2007, Judge Keller refused to have the clerk's office work past 5 p.m. to permit the last minute filing of a stay of execution for Michael Wayne Richard. The stay was not received and Richard was executed.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 19-page document sharply rebuked Keller for her handling of the case, saying that her conduct violated legal standards for her office and effectively closed off last-minute legal avenues for inmate Michael Wayne Richard, who was executed by lethal injection at 8:23 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007.

"Judge Keller's conduct on Sept. 25, 2007, did not accord Richard access to open courts or the right to be heard according to law," said the commission. "Judge Keller's conduct constitutes willful or persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary or the administration of justice." According to the Star-Telegram, the commission said Keller's behavior violated the Texas Constitution, the Texas Government Code and the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.

In spite of the strong rebuke, the judicial oversight commission chose the least severe public sanction against Keller -- a public warning -- opting against more severe recommendations, including calling for her removal from the bench.

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