Judge on Trial: Closed to a Death-Row Appeal?

"Soft-spoken and a devout Christian, Judge Sharon Keller presides as chief justice of Texas’ highest criminal court. She’s also known as “Sharon Killer” by her opponents, who are going to see her in court next week on charges of judicial misconduct. They charge that Keller refused a condemned man a last-minute appeal in 2007. Now she faces a trial in a San Antonio courtroom that could lead to her removal and will certainly focus wide attention on Texas’ enthusiasm for the death penalty.

“Keller finds herself at this pass because of a four-word sentence she uttered on Sept. 25, 2007: "We close at 5.” According to a newspaper interview with Keller in October 2007 and pretrial testimony last year, she said those words to Ed Marty, general counsel for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA). As the court’s logistics officer, Marty had called the judge at the behest of lawyers for Michael Richard, 49, who had been on death row for two decades and whose execution was scheduled for that evening.

“The lawyers were allegedly having computer trouble and problems getting last-minute paperwork to the Austin court. Keller was reportedly at her home dealing with a repairman that afternoon when she got the request — and made her reply. Richard’s lawyers failed to meet the deadline, and at 8:23 p.m. Richard was declared dead following a lethal injection.”

time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1915814,00.html

I hope they throw her off the bench. I once kept a Catholic judge so late that a hearing on an emergency order of protection started at 6 pm. And this judge closed her door to a death penalty appeal? Even Supreme Court justices are available on weekends!

She will be exonerated, and rightly so. She committed no crime and owes no special treatment to that man or any other. The criminal process is long and not dependent on a judge to do an eleventh hour change. Please bear in mind I oppose capital punishment any yet I realize unjust persecution is equally bad whether the defend is a judge or not

Hey, if this means that the Death Penalty can be eliminated, it’s all good to me. Now we just need to start doing this to those pro-abortion judges.

The judge is not being criminally charged. I think this is a hearing as to judicial ethics.

If you are a judge a person does owe special treatment in regard to capital punishment cases. That is the law even in Texas.

And, let’s be real here: A life is at stake and a person chooses to meet a repairman instead?

I am very sad to hear this. I just read this somewhat related story yesterday. What if Richards was like this guy?

Hearing for US death row inmate

The US Supreme Court has ordered that a death row inmate should receive a new hearing to see if evidence not heard at his trial proves his innocence.

Troy Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing a policeman in the southern state of Georgia, but key witnesses have recanted their testimony.

In September the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution hours before he was due to die from lethal injection.

His supporters include Pope Benedict XVI and US ex-President Jimmy Carter.

Lawyers for Davis said in their appeal that seven of nine prosecution witnesses had retracted their trial testimony.

The lawyers also said several new witnesses had identified or implicated a different individual as the person who killed police officer Mark MacPhail in a car park in 1989.

Attorneys for the state of Georgia had argued that the appeal should be rejected.

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8206032.stm

Justice involves a fair trial. If a single judge uses their authority to undermine the process it becomes an injustice. The concept that he original judge(S), lawyers, and jury are void of the system and some judge in the eleventh is to make the meaningful decision is to rewrite the system to systemically develop an unjust process

Not at all. At the eleventh hour the defendant’s lawyers were trying to utilize the appellate process, which is an integral part of the justice system. A local judge chose her personal expediency over considering if carrying out a death sentence was mistaken.

That is a true miscarriage of justice.

The guy was on death row for 20 years and they were filing an appeal at the last minute? Couldn’t they have done it 10 years earlier?

Can’t the judge tell the repairman to come back later? That’s the issue – the question of refusing a hearing on a death sentence for a capricious personal errand.

"SAN ANTONIO — The trial on misconduct charges against Sharon Keller, the state’s top criminal judge, began Monday with pointed criticism from one of Keller’s colleagues — and one surprise revelation.

Judge Cheryl Johnson, called to testify by the prosecution, said Keller violated Court of Criminal Appeals procedure in 2007 by unilaterally denying defense lawyers the opportunity to file execution-day briefs after 5 p.m.

“She should have directed (the request to file late briefs) to me,” said Johnson, who had been assigned by rotation to be the only judge expected to handle execution-day phone calls, faxes and filings from lawyers for the inmate, Michael Richard.

“And I would have told them that they could file,” Johnson said. “It’s an execution. They might be valid pleadings. I have no other way of knowing.”

Johnson, however, said she didn’t learn about the request for more time until four days after Richard was executed — an account contradicted in parts of a witness deposition revealed Monday.

“I was upset by it. I was frustrated,” she said. “And it made the court look bad.”

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates wrongdoing by judges, has charged Keller with denying Richard his right to access the court system and with bringing discredit upon on the judiciary. Keller’s trial on the potentially career-ending charges is expected to end by Thursday."

statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/2009/08/18/0818keller.html

No a stay of execution is based on the concept that and injustice maybe occurring because the legal system has not played out in full, as: …the Supreme Court has not replied, or …A new trial request is pending…etc.

The appeal process begins immediately after the conviction which to request 3 judges (appellant court) reviews the unfair trial received by the defendant. That process played out long before 20 years.

Once these legal processes played out their is no need for the judge to repeatedly remind other parties that the legal process has played out.

Yes, nothing important is involved … only a person’s life is in the balance.:rolleyes:

Those are your words not mine. I would not support a death penalty however stopping the death penalty is far different from trying to get a single judge to undermine the process by staying all executions indefinitely

I do not know law per se, however, these things take timing. There are countless stories of eleventh hour rehearings and appeals. This is because evidence can take time to build up a defense or even more tragically some cases are ignored till the last minute. This is hard to describe and may sound cruel, but that is how it works. Courts are inundated with appeals and so it is treated somewhat as a triage – where more serious claims get noticed and less serious ones are put in the back burner. If this is the case, they made have tried to appeal before, waited for special evidence, or could not risk having their appeal stale from it being 5 years too early.

Without knowing the details right now, even the time article is just a secondary reporting, we may not know an earlier appeal is even possible. What we do know is that the judge decided the man’s life is not important enough, that she could not be bothered to find out what appeal was being requested, or that she had sound reasons not to accept the case and it is not reported.

While the judge will face no criminal issues unless the judge has intentionally blocked the appeal for other reasons besides the court hour, the judge will face judgment after death. If not for the man’s sake, she could have considered her own sake. Remember the parable of the debtors. I hope she repents if she has done wrong (only God truly knows her heart – not us) for her own sake and as an opportunity to witness to others.

I do not know law per se, however, these things take timing. There are countless stories of eleventh hour rehearings and appeals. This is because evidence can take time to build up a defense or even more tragically some cases are ignored till the last minute. This is hard to describe and may sound cruel, but that is how it works. Courts are inundated with appeals and so it is treated somewhat as a triage – where more serious claims get noticed and less serious ones are put in the back burner. If this is the case, they made have tried to appeal before, waited for special evidence, or could not risk having their appeal stale from it being 5 years too early.

Without knowing the details right now, even the time article is just a secondary reporting, we may not know an earlier appeal is even possible. What we do know is that the judge decided the man’s life is not important enough or that she could not be bothered to find out what appeal was being requested.

While the judge will face no criminal issues unless the judge has intentionally blocked the appeal for other reasons besides the court hour, the judge will face judgment after death. If not for the man’s sake, she could have considered her own sake. Remember the parable of the debtors. I hope she repents for her own sake and as an opportunity to witness to others.
[/quote]

Among other things, the lawyers were advancing a brand-new legal argument flowing from a U.S. Supreme Court case that had just come down. This caused some of the last-minute panic by the lawyers representing him.

But, in the judge’s defense, she claims she had no idea why the request for the clerk’s office to stay open late was made.

Was she the only possible judge at the 11th hour? Why not go some place else? I’m confused. Also, it seems like if they are at that point with such a low level judge, they pretty much exhausted their appeals OR they are negligent themselves. Computer problems or no.

Actually it is a tactic utilized to disrupt the justice system. The defendant’s lawyers wait until the last few hours to file an appeal hoping to buy time in delaying the carrying out of sentence while their appeal is considered. In this case they waited a bit too long and gambled away their client’s life.

How is that tactic effective? If you will die you will die. My reasons above including evidence and the triage system of court appeals behind the scene answers the question without contradictions. Is there sometime I’m missing or do you have personal experience you can relate?

Statement from the judge that appears to support the 11th hour disruption notion:
"Richard had a long legal history and a criminal record that evokes little sympathy. “By the time he was executed,” Keller wrote in her response to the charges, “Richard had two trials, two direct appeals (including to the United States Supreme Court), two state habeas corpus proceedings and three federal habeas corpus hearings or motions.” She added that the charge against her that Richard was not accorded access to open courts or the right to be heard “is patently without merit.”

That does not excuse her. Even if the defendant had 89 previous motions, a motion to forestall an execution should not be shelved for the mere fact that it is filed after 5 pm; holding a judge up from an appointment. The judge showed an appalling lack of judgment and does not belong on the bench.

An appeal is filed, the execution is delayed while the appeal is considered.

nytimes.com/1988/12/02/us/law-bar-death-row-appeals-are-drawing-sharp-rebukes-frustrated-federal-judges.html

Last month a three-judge panel charged that ‘‘deliberate witholding of claims until the 11th hour has now become all but a standard tactic’’ in capital cases and warned, ‘‘We can tolerate it no longer.’’ Earlier, Chief Judge Charles Clark wrote, ‘‘Justice demands punishment be imposed when the minds of men still retain memory of the crime committed,’’ and said that changes must come quickly ‘‘before respect for the law erodes beyond repair.’’

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.