The Judge Who Couldn't Wait Files A Response

Sharon Keller, chief justice of the state's highest criminal court, has filed her response to charges that she refused to keep the office open for an hour to accept an appeal on behalf of a guy being executed that night.

Essentially, none of it's her fault, and the guy was guilty anyway.

The Houston Chronicle has posted a pdf of the actual appeal; it's only 12 pages and worth a read. (But damned if I can find the link to it anymore -- it was on the front page, but it's not part of the linked story on it. I will make no allusions to layoffs and short-handedness.)

Keller says that the Commission on Judicial Conduct failed to include such information as the grisly details of the killing that Michael Wayne Richard committed, which is hardly the point. Chuck Manson could have been the convict in question; the issue is what Keller did (or didn't) do.

In addition, Keller argues, it's all the staff's fault.

The controversy stems from an execution on September 25, 2007; earlier that day the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in two Kentucky cases that death by lethal injection might be unconstitutional. With that new information, Richard's lawyers scrambled to file a new appeal.

They had computer problems; Keller says an appeal "could have been handwritten."

She also bemoans the high cost of lawyers these days, saying she should be allowed to have the prominent Chip Babcock represent her pro bono without it being an ethical violation.

"[T]wo arms of the Texas government are forcing [Keller] to an election," her response states. "Either defend herself pro se or risk a financially ruinous legal bill to defend against these charges which are without merit."

Yeah, like a lot of other Texas defendants have learned, thanks to "Get Tough" judges like Keller.


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