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Hang ’em High

18 Aug

Texas Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller and Michael Wayne Richard

Texas Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller and Michael Wayne Richard

Texas judge who shut door on a death row appeal is on trial for misconduct

A prominent Texas judge says she will take the stand to answer charges of professional misconduct for refusing to hear a last-minute appeal from a condemned prisoner that came in after normal office hours, The Associated Press reports.

Sharon Keller, a Republican dubbed “Sharon Killer” for her tough stance on crime, faces a special hearing at the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct that could result in her removal from the bench of the state’s highest criminal court.

In 2007, Keller had instructed a staffer to close the court after 5 p.m. at a time when lawyers for a convicted killer were scrambling to seek a stay of execution in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the man’s case, the AP reports.

The efforts to file the appeal had been delayed by computer glitches and the prisoner’s lawyers had called at 4:45 p.m. to request a delay, but were told by the judge that “we close at 5 p.m.”

The prisoner was executed by lethal injection about three hours later.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Keller had engaged in “willful or persistent conduct that cast public discredit on the judiciary” and multiple newspaper editorials condemned her actions.

More –

“This execution proceeded because the highest criminal court couldn’t be bothered to stay an extra 20 minutes on the night of an execution,” Andrea Keilen, executive director of Texas Defender Service, told ABC News in October 2007.

Two other judges on the court told the Houston Chronicle they were willing to work late that night, and were unaware Keller refused to allow the filing of the appeal.

“It was an important issue,” Judge Paul Womack told the Chronicle in the October 2007 story. He said he stayed at the court until 7 p.m. because “I wanted to be sure to be available in case it was raised.”

Keller pointed out in her response that there were no written execution-day procedures in place the day of Richard’s execution. She said she did not tell the other judges about her conversation with Marty because she thought they knew about it.

In a virtually unprecedented move, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in October 2007 filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct over the incident.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that NACDL has ever filed a judicial conduct complaint against a sitting judge,” then-president Carmen Hernandez wrote. “Only a full and complete investigation of this incident will suffice. … Whatever the findings of the judicial conduct commission, the handling of Mr. Richard’s case — and his death — will remain unacceptable.”

Texas executes nearly half of all the people executed in the United States each year. Texas also leads the nation in wrongful convictions. To date, 38 people have been exonerated due to DNA evidence, which begs the question as to how many thousands of people have been convicted for whose cases there is no DNA evidence – or, as in several cases where such evidence has been willfully destroyed by authorities.

The cases in Tulia Texas demonstrated just how wrong things can go in Texas. Going back to the case of Lenell Geter, a young black engineer who was freed from prison in 1984 after being given a life sentence for an armed robbery he did not commit. Randall Dale Adams, who narrowly escaped being executed for a murder conviction that was unanimously overturned in 1989, 12 years after his trial. Then there was the Fake Drugs case in Dallas – where 24 Hispanics were convicted, and had those convictions overturned. The case of  Charles Chatman, who after nearly 27 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, was the 15th wrongfully convicted prisoner in Dallas County to be exonerated by DNA testing between 2001 and 2008, in just Dallas County.

Think it’s time to hang the “Hanging Judge”.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 18, 2009 in The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Hang ’em High

  1. Constructive Feedback

    August 19, 2009 at 8:23 PM

    Shame on the judge!!

    He should be forced to dig the KILLER out of his rat hole and applogize to him first hand!!

    I will support you on this one BET Uncut.

    Like

     

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