Judge Refused to Leave Office Open to Accept Last Minute Death Row Appeal
In 2007, Judge Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to leave the Court open after hours to hear the last minute appeal of condemned prisoner Michael Wayne Richard. I have written on this case in the past, http://mattmangino.blogspot.com/2010/07/commission-judge-casts-public-discredit.html .
Richard was executed, his appeal never reached the court. Richard had what appeared to be a legitimate issue. Earlier in the day the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Baze V. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008) a Kentucky challenge to lethal injection. The Court ultimately found that lethal injection was not cruel and unusual punishment.
The State Commission of Judicial Conduct, reprimanded Judge Keller with a warning for her conduct. A three judge panel later dismissed the warning suggesting that the commission did not have the authority to issue a "lenient" warning. The commission had a range of censure, removal, or dismissal, all of which are more serious than a warning.
This week, according to the Houston Chronicle,the commission's executive director, Seana Willing, and special counsel John J. McKetta III asked the panel to reconsider its decision to dismiss the case. The two acted as prosecutors in the case.
Willing and McKetta, in their motion for rehearing, disagreed with the decision about the commission's authority to issue a warning. If that is the case, they said, the proper thing would be to send the case back to the commission so it could choose among its more limited options.
"The commission is capable of correcting its error, and on remand can apply the correct range of censure, removal, retirement, or dismissal this Court found is available in formal proceedings," the two prosecutors wrote, as reported by the Chronicle.
This seems like an appropriate response to the panel's decisions. As I wrote in the past, to reward someone with dismissal of the complaint because the commission issued a too lenient admonishment seems illogical or even contrived, http://mattmangino.blogspot.com/2010/10/special-three-judge-panel-threw-out-a.html.
Keller's lawyer, Chip Babcock, told the Chronicle, "I'm surprised and disappointed that the examiner (Willing) is not willing to let this go. … I would have thought they were out of options." No wonder he is surprised he announced this "ordeal" over after the panel's decision.
To read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7265560.html