Legal Ethics

Top Texas Judge Blames Inmate's Lawyers for Alleged Execution-Eve Appeal Snafu

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In a filing today, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denies disciplinary charges of misconduct and incompetence filed against her last month by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Publicly castigated after she refused a request to allow the court clerk’s office to stay open to receive a late filing on Sept. 25, 2007, hours before the convicted murderer at issue was executed, Judge Sharon Keller also blames a condemned man’s lawyers for his execution before a last-minute appeal could be pursued in her court, according to the New York Times.

She says in the filing that she did nothing wrong and acted “in accordance with long-standing custom,” the newspaper reports.

Keller also complains, in effect, of being tried in the press and says the inmate’s lawyers could have taken the appeal directly to a judge assigned to hear such late filings, according to the Times and the Associated Press.

“Judge Keller did not, and could not have, if she had wanted to, close access to the court,” the response states. Lawyers for Michael Wayne Richard could have gone to the court’s general counsel or eight other judges on the appeals court’s bench with their late filing, it contends, adding that all of their phone numbers are published.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has since changed its rules to allow emergency e-mailed appeals under such circumstances, in death penalty cases, the AP notes.

A copy of Keller’s response (PDF) is provided by the Austin Legal blog of the Austin American-Statesman.

Earlier related coverage: “Top Texas Judge Faces Ethics Case Over Late Filing Refused on Inmate’s Execution Day”

Dallas Morning News: “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge’s actions called into question”

New York Times: “Mixed Opinions of a Judge Accused of Misconduct “

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