A special master has concluded that Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller doesn't deserve to be removed from office or even given “further reprimand beyond the public humiliation she has surely suffered” for her conduct in a death row inmate's failed effort to file a last-minute appeal before his execution. San Antonio-based District Judge David Berchelmann Jr., serving as special master in the case of alleged judicial misconduct, wrote that the Texas Defender Service in representing Michael Richard “bears the bulk of fault for what occurred on September 25, 2007.”
Unbe-fucking-lievable. Here's her attorney:
"Judge Keller takes to heart the advice that she should strive to be more collegial and that the Court's internal communications should improve," (attorney Chip) Babcock's statement said.
Interesting to note that "public humiliation" is a substitute for an official reprimand when a judge engages in behavior that's "not exemplary of a public servant" and considered "highly questionable." ... Judge Berchelmann's recommendation will now go to the full Commission on Judicial Conduct who will decide whether to dismiss charges, reprimand Keller, or recommend her removal from office.
And Elise Hu:
The timing of (death row defendant Michael) Richard's last-minute appeal was especially key in this case. He was set to be executed the same day the U.S. Supreme Court stayed all executions in the country after it decided to hear Baze v. Rees, which questioned whether lethal injection constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The SCJC review says Richard's execution would have likely been stayed too, but his lawyers had to exhaust the lethal injection argument in state courts first. The claim was never presented to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which Keller leads, after a series of miscommunications between her court and lawyers from the defender service. A key miscommunication had to do with the message about the early closing time.
I gotta say I'm speechless. A compilation from the StandDown Texas Project for the history of this case is here and my previous postings are here.
Updates: More astounded reactions. Othniel ...
Equality under the Law?
Due Process for all?
Not in Texas. More process than is due to and superior standing under the law is accorded to Chief Judge Keller than to litigants before her. Apparently those who dare approach her Court seeking Justice enjoy neither equality nor due process. She cannot be bothered to keep open the Court House door after 5:00 p.m., even though a defendant's life hang in the balance.
WSJ Law Blog (the most conservative source I would ever post):
Well, we weren’t entirely sure that Sharon Keller, the presiding judge the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, was going to get in big trouble over the events of Sept. 25, 2007.
But we hardly expected that the special master presiding over the judicial misconduct charges against Keller would blame another party for the unfortunate series of events. Or that the master, San Antonio-based judge David Berchelmann Jr., would express sympathy for Keller.
Ethics in Texas is never really ethical, and this case is no different. Judge Sharon Keller closed her office promptly at 5pm and allowed a man to be executed, rather than accepting the appeal. ...
Republican judges saving Republican judges. Ahhhh the ethics of Texas. Way to go, impartial judiciary.