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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jim Mattox, Mark White Criticize Greg Abbott For Not Stopping Execution Following Court Closing by Sharon Keller

The controversy about Judge Sharon Keller has hit the front page of the Houston Chronicle in an article that has former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox and former Governor (and former Attorney General) Mark White criticizing current Attorney General Greg Abbott. The article says White and Mattox "raised questions about whether Attorney General Greg Abbott should have intervened to stop (Michael) Richard's execution. The attorney general represents the state in death penalty appeals."

The article quotes White saying Abbott is an officer of the court and he "should have been obligated to ask for a stay" in the Richard execution.

There was also one other option for stopping the execution after Keller's unethical decision to close access to Texas' highest criminal appeals court. Governor Perry could have issued a 30-day stay of execution.

Excerpt from Chronicle article:

Former Gov. Mark White and former Attorney General Jim Mattox, who both fought to enforce the state's capital punishment laws during their terms as attorney general, said Abbott, as the state's top lawyer, has a duty to halt executions when they appear to violate an inmate's due process rights.

White said Abbott is an officer of the court and he "should have been obligated to ask for a stay" in the Richard execution.

Mattox said the attorney general may lack actual legal authority to stop an execution, but the state prison system will follow an attorney general's order.

Mattox, who witnessed more than 30 executions, said he once ordered an inmate off the execution gurney over prison system protests because he knew the man would receive a stay.

"When the state is all powerful, the state has got to be cautious in how it uses its power," he said. "Sometimes you do things not to protect the individual but to protect the system itself."

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