Judge "Killer" Keller Starts Misconduct Trial for Denying Execution Appeal

By Kevin Fayle on August 18, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Judge Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is known for being tough on crime.  Her reputation's so strong, she's even earned the nickname "Killer" Keller over the years.

Well, "Killer" may want to put across a meeker image for the next few days.  Keller is currently facing a special trial in front of the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on charges related to her refusal to keep the court clerk's office open past 5pm in order to receive a last-minute appeal from a prisoner on Death Row. 

The appeal didn't make it, and the state put the prisoner, convicted killer Michael Wayne Richard, to death later that evening.
When Keller received the call from the court's general counsel, Edward Marty, it was a few minutes before 5.  The US Supreme Court had issued its decision to grant certiorari in a case challenging lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment earlier in the day, and Richard's attorneys felt that the decision gave them grounds to file an appeal. 

Unfortunately, computer problems slowed down the writing process, and the attorneys were doubtful they could get the appeal into the court before 5, so they called and asked for an extension. 

Keller had left early that day to meet with a repairman at her home.  When Marty's call came in, Keller refused to grant the extensions, and now she faces five charges, including incompetence and casting public discredit on the judiciary.

In her defense, Keller says she was unaware that Richard's attorneys were having computer problems that had slowed the filing process, and points out that the attorneys could have given the appeal to the duty judge, who was at the court after the clerk's office closed.

But c'mon - a man is scheduled to be put to death that night, you're the presiding judge on the highest criminal appeals court in the state and you go home early?  That looks bad enough, but to then shut down a last-minute filing from someone who's getting ready to walk into the death chamber . . . that's just cold.
Judge Sharon Keller First Amended Notice of Formal Proceedings

See Also:
Judge plans to testify at death-row appeal trial (AP)
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