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Monday, February 16, 2009

Impeachment Resolution Filed Against Sharon Keller for "neglect of duty"

The AP is reporting that a Texas lawmaker has filed a resolution to impeach Sharon Keller

A Texas state lawmaker is trying to impeach a judge on the state's highest criminal appeals court.

Rep. Lon Burnam filed a resolution Monday seeking to start the process against Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller for what he calls "neglect of duty" in a death penalty case.

Keller refused to keep the court offices open after 5 p.m. back on Sept. 25, 2007, when attorneys for Michael Richard said they were having computer problems, causing troubles filing late appeals.

Richard was executed that night by lethal injection for the rape and murder of a Houston-area woman.
The Dallas Morning News reported:
"I am trying to remove her from the bench," Burnam said. "It's one thing for a banker to close shop at five o'clock sharp. But a public official who stands between a human being and the death chamber must be held to a higher standard."

Keller refused to allow the Court of Criminal Appeals to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007, even though Richard's attorneys had called and asked for extra time to file their appeal because of computer problems. He was put to death by lethal injection hours later.

Earlier that day, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to review the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case.

Keller's refusal to keep the court open outraged defense attorneys and civil rights activists and led to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Richard's widow. The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal court in Austin in 2008, said lawyer Richard Kallinen, who represented Richard's widow.
Text of the resolution:

81R8266 JSA-F

By: Burnam H.R. No. 480


R E S O L U T I O N

WHEREAS, The House of Representatives of the Texas
Legislature has exclusive power to present articles of impeachment
against a state officer under Section 1, Article XV, Texas
Constitution, and Chapter 665, Government Code; now, therefore, be
it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 81st Texas
Legislature adopt the following procedures to consider the
impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting
her official duties with willful disregard for human life:
SECTION 1. SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON IMPEACHMENT. The House
Special Committee on Impeachment composed of seven members of the
House of Representatives shall be appointed by the Speaker of the
House. The Speaker shall designate a committee member to serve as
chair of the committee and a committee member to serve as vice-chair
of the committee.
SECTION 2. INVESTIGATION; ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT. (a)
The committee shall conduct an investigation to consider whether to
recommend that under Section 1, Article XV, Texas Constitution, and
Chapter 665, Government Code, the House of Representatives adopt
and present to the Texas Senate articles of impeachment against
Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting her official
duties with willful disregard for human life in connection with her
actions on the evening of September 25, 2007, including her
apparent irresponsible refusal to abide by the prior practice of
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in order to receive the appeal
of Michael Richard, which conduct may have resulted in Mr.
Richard's deprivation of life without due process of law as
guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United
States and Section 19, Article I, Texas Constitution, by means of a
potentially unlawful execution by lethal injection, and in the
embarrassment of the State of Texas in a manner that casts severe
doubt on the impartiality of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and
the entire criminal justice system of this state.
(b) The committee shall submit a report of its findings to
the Speaker of the House and the full House of Representatives as
soon as reasonably practicable, but not later than the 90th day
after the date the committee is appointed. If the committee
recommends impeachment of the judge, the report shall contain a
draft of articles of impeachment.
SECTION 3. POWERS; ADMINISTRATION. (a) The committee
shall meet at the call of the chair and may meet in executive
session if approved by a majority of the members of the committee.
(b) The committee has all the powers granted to a standing
committee under the Rules of the House of Representatives and under
Subchapter B, Chapter 301, Government Code, including the power to
issue process to procure testimony or other evidence.
(c) On the request of the committee, the House of
Representatives or the Texas Legislative Council shall provide the
staff necessary to assist the committee in carrying out its duties.
(d) The operating expenses of the committee shall be paid as
determined by the Committee on House Administration.
SECTION 4. EXPIRATION. This resolution expires and the
House Special Committee on Impeachment ceases to exist on January
1, 2010.

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