Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Bit of Texas Mayham

The Faculty Lounge points me to a horrifying story involving Texas appellate court judge Sharon Keller. Basically, what happened was this: Michael Richards was on death row, about to be executed. But the day before his scheduled execution, the US Supreme Court accepted cert in Baze v. Rees, which threw into question whether lethal injection was "cruel and unusual punishment" under the 8th amendment. So Richards' attorneys spent all day crafting and filing an appeal -- and then their computer crashed.

The court was scheduled to close at 5 PM. So Richards attorneys went to Judge Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and asked if she would keep the court's clerk office open 20 minutes beyond closing time so they would have time to print and deliver their petition. Judge Keller refused to do so, even though she was not the judge assigned to Mr. Richards' case. Indeed, the judge who was assigned to the case was present in the court building, and would remain so along with other judges on the court who stayed well after 5 PM in anticipation of an appeal that never came (because it was not allowed to be filed). Judge Keller never consulted with any of the other judges.

Michael Richards was executed the next day.

After an ethics complaint against Judge Keller went nowhere, a Texas legislator has introduced impeachment proceedings against her. These likely will go nowhere either -- Judge Keller is a Republican, and so are the majority in the House and the Senate.

But her conduct was a gross abdication of judicial duty, one that displays a shocking indifference to justice and human life. She deserves to be punished -- even if that punishment can only come in the form of publicizing and memorializing her misdeeds.

1 comment:

PG said...

One of those bad facts situations: I agree that "her conduct was a gross abdication of judicial duty, one that displays a shocking indifference to justice and human life." However, I suspect a lot of people will note that the result in Baze v. Rees was to find that lethal injection was not a violation of the 8th Amendment (albeit on at least four different rationales of why this was so), thus Richards still would have been executed, just 7 months later, even if Judge Keller had acted properly in her duties.