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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Smoking Gun in Sharon Keller Fiasco: Full Text of Policies She Violated

Texas Moratorium Network submitted a Public Information Request to Sharon Keller to receive a copy of the letter she wrote to the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe in response to Ratcliffe's own PIR. Ratcliffe wrote his story on his PIR on Dec 13 ("Judge in death case violated policies: Keller, who shut out appeal, says new written rules reflect unwritten ones on that day"). He wrote that "Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller apparently violated court policies for handling death penalty cases when she closed the court clerk's doors on Michael Richard's efforts to file a last-minute appeal before his execution."

Ratcliffe's reporting seems to have uncovered the smoking gun admission that Keller broke the CCA's policies in effect on the day of Richard's execution. He should be given some sort of journalism award for his work. We congratulate him on his idea of asking for the policies in effect on Sept 25. His article left us wanting to see the entire text of the policies ourselves, so we submitted our own PIR.

Reading the entire text of the policies makes it very clear that Keller violated the rules by not contacting the assigned duty judge about the request by Richard's lawyers to file a late appeal. The consequences of her action should be for her to resign immediately or if she lacks the integrity to resign on her own, then the State Commission on Judicial Conduct should compel her to resign.

We will send a copy to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct of Keller's letter to Ratcliffe and of the document "Execution-day Procedures". We hope the Commission has already obtained a copy, but just in case, we will send them our copy, along with another 250 or so new names of people who have signed our judicial complaint against Keller since we first submitted about 1600 names on Nov 16.

Read the policies and judge for yourselves if she violated them. Here is a link to a pdf of the document we received from the Court.

Execution-day Procedures

A designated judge will be assigned to be in charge of each scheduled execution. Generally, judges will be assigned in rotating seniority order by the general counsel. Exceptions in order of assignment will be made for prior involvement in the death-row inmate's case as trial judge, prosecutor, or defense counsel, or for recusal. Judges may also trade assignments, with notice to all other judges and general counsel, for other good cause such as anticipated absence from court on the day of execution. Unless the Court has been informed by defense counsel that no pleadings will be filed, or pleadings have been filed and ruled on, general counsel shall be present at the Court on the date of the scheduled execution until the time of execution has passed. The assigned judge shall be present at the Court, or immediately available, on the date of the scheduled execution until the time of execution has passed. Support staff may be requested to remain, also, as needed.

All communications regarding the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned judge. The term “communications” includes pleadings, telephone calls, faxes, emails, and any other means of communication with the Court. The assigned judge may call a special conference or gather votes by telephone, email, fax, or other form of communication.

If the communication includes a request for stay of execution, the assigned judge shall contact, by any reasonable means, the other members of the Court and request a vote on the motion to stay. Non-assigned judges will provide to the assigned judge an adequate means of contact. "Reasonable means" includes calling a special conference and contact by electronic communication.


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