Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Texas Judge "Exonerated" of Misconduct

A special three-judge panel threw out a “public warning” that chastised Texas’ highest criminal judge, Sharon Keller, for violating court procedures and bringing discredit to the judiciary. The ruling prohibits the State Commission on Judicial Conduct from refiling the accusations and the decision cannot be appealed.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the special review court ruled that the type of proceedings used for Keller can only end in censure, not a public warning, and that the error was so fundamental that the only course was to dismiss all charges. Censure, the court reasoned, requires “a finding of good cause” and seven votes from the 13-member commission, an independent state agency that investigates allegations of misconduct against Texas judges. http://mattmangino.blogspot.com/2010/07/commission-judge-casts-public-discredit.html

Censure is a more serious finding than "public warning." Judge Keller benefits by being subjected to a less serious "public warning" and has all the charges dismissed without the ability to review the decision or appeal.

That is utterly unbelievable. A 13-member commission finds that the chief judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals brought discredit to the judiciary and all the charges are dismissed because the commission chose not to censure her and let her off easy with a warning. She was treated leniently-and the result is to dismiss the charges without recourse.

The reader can judge for herself if Judge Keller deserved more than a slap on the wrist and then a gift of exoneration for her conduct.

On September 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Baze v. Rees, a Kentucky case challenging lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment. On that same day, Michael Richard was scheduled to be executed in Texas. His lawyers wanted to file a motion to stay his execution in light of the Supreme Court's action. In order to file the motion counsel asked the court of appeals to remain open past its regular closing time of 5 p.m.

Judge Keller refused to keep the court open and Richard was executed.

District Judge David Berchelmann Jr ., was appointed to recommend a course of action for the judicial conduct commission after complaints were lodged against Judge Keller.

According to the American-Statesman, after a four-day hearing in August 2009, Berchelmann suggested that Keller should not be removed from office or reprimanded, concluding that although she made several questionable decisions on the night of Richard’s execution, his lawyers bore most of the blame for the missed appeal.

Last June, the commission met in private to consider Keller’s fate. Commissioners had three choices — dismiss the charges, censure Keller or recommend that she be removed from office. The Commission issued the warning in July.

To read more: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/special-court-throws-out-keller-rebuke-ending-case-966630.html?viewAsSinglePage=true

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