Saturday, September 29, 2007

Michael Richard: Executed by computer crash and a 5 p.m court closing time

Somebody should buy Texas Defender Service some new computers and a heart for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The New York Times:

The stay for the Texas execution was issued two days after the court did not stop Texas from executing another inmate, Michael Richard, leading to some confusion about its intentions.

Lawyers in the case on Tuesday said their appeal had been turned down because of an unusual series of procedural problems.

Professor Dow said the computers crashed at the Texas Defender Service in Houston while lawyers were rewriting his appeal to take advantage of the high court’s unexpected interest in lethal injection.

Because of the resulting delay, the lawyers missed by 20 minutes the 5 p.m. filing deadline at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, where the appeal had to go first before moving to the Supreme Court.

The Texas court refused their pleas to remain open for the extra minutes. Because the lawyers missed that crucial step, Professor Dow said, the Supreme Court had to turn down the appeal, and Mr. Richard was executed.


Why did the U.S. Supreme Court halt the execution of one Texas inmate Thursday while allowing another prisoner, who presented the same arguments against lethal injection, to die two days earlier?

Defense lawyers blamed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which refused requests to stay open after 5 p.m. Tuesday, stopping a key appeal from being filed on behalf of Michael Richard. Richard, convicted of raping and killing a Harris County mother of seven in 1986, was executed later that night.

Michael Richard His appeal wasn't filed to court by 5 p.m.

"It's an inexcusable failure," said Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender Service, which represented Richard. "To close at 5 when the execution is scheduled for 6 p.m.? We need to have access to the courts."

Abel Acosta, chief deputy clerk for the court, said it is longstanding policy for the court to close on time. "The clerk's office consulted with the court, and we were advised that our hours are 8 to 5," he said.

Keilen said the extra time was needed to respond to Tuesday morning's news that the Supreme Court accepted a Kentucky case challenging lethal injections as cruel and unusual punishment.

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