Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hampton gets DMN endorsement

Newspaper endorsements aren't this blog's usual beat, but this appellate court race will get few opportunities to make news between now and November. This recommendation is also significant for the fact that the Dallas News continues to endorse a 100% Republican state Supreme Court.

Among his other many outstanding qualifications, Keith Hampton is -- according to Scott Cobb -- the attorney who persuaded Rick Perry to commute the capital punishment of Kenneth Foster.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has developed a reputation as a court that turns its back on verdicts that need a second or third look.

It's easy to see why. Seven of the nine judges have backgrounds as prosecutors, and the presiding judge once campaigned as "pro-prosecutor." Court-watchers recite a list of marquee cases of failed justice. The court's tilt is a concern, considering that Texas leads the nation in executions and has far more DNA-proven miscarriages of justice than any other state.

The Nov. 2 election for Place 6 on the court is an opportunity for a rebalancing. Austin defense attorney Keith Hampton, running against veteran Judge Michael Keasler, has the legal credentials and a perspective now missing on the court: If elected, he would be the only member to have involvement in a capital murder case from indictment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hampton, 49, a Democrat, has pushed for important legal reforms in Austin as legislative director for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. One effort led to a law giving juries the option of life without parole for murderers. An unsuccessful effort last year would have improved police photo lineups – an overdue reform in light of widespread cases of documented witness misidentification.

I posted this in June...

Without any Democrats on the CCA for the past twelve years, the ideological spectrum of the Court has shifted dramatically to the right. One Republican judge on the Court, Lawrence Meyers, recently toured newspaper editorial boards promoting the state’s fairness, prompting Dallas Morning News Editor Michael Landauer to write, “Try not to laugh.” (Source: Dallas Morning News, June 2009). Scott Henson, an award-winning blogger who writes for the non-partisan criminal justice site Grits for Breakfast, wrote the following about the political nature of the CCA:

There is no liberal wing on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. There’s a conservative wing, to which Judge Johnson belongs, and a more or less totalitarian wing, in which Keasler and Meyers reside along with Presiding Judge Sharon Keller. (Source: Grits for Breakfast, June 2009)

The “totalitarian wing” of the Court has a well-documented and thoroughly perplexing history of unprofessional actions. From the “sleeping lawyer” case in October 2000, to investigations into the judicial conduct of Sharon Keller in 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is in desperate need of professional, accountable judges on its bench.

Here's Hampton in his own words:

Let's get Hampton on the bench.

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