Friday, February 27, 2009

Keller legal defense expected to be expensive

Many people end up sentenced to death, including innocent people like Ernest Willis who was exonerated and released from Texas Death Row in 2004, not because they are the worst of the worst offenders, but because they can not afford to hire the best lawyers or even a half-way decent lawyer. A federal judge in San Antonio ordered in 2004 that Willis either be tried again or freed. That overruled a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that kept Willis on death row. He spent 17 years on death row for a crime he did not commit before his exoneration. Keller had voted to keep Willis on death row. Now, it looks like the worst of the worst of Texas judges is facing the same problems faced by many of the people whose cases arrive at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals - the high cost of hiring a decent lawyer.

Keller lives in a nice home in West Austin, which you can see in this video. As the Statesman reports she "is paid $152,500 a year. She owns several Dallas properties that provide at least $60,000 a year in rental income, and a family trust provides more than $25,000 a year, according to her financial disclosure statement for 2007."

More from the Austin American-Statesman:

Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the state's highest criminal court, faces several hundred thousand dollars in legal bills to fight charges that she violated her judicial duties in a 2007 death penalty case.

But the state agency that charged Keller will pay $1 for the services of Mike McKetta, a highly regarded trial and appellate attorney from Austin who will present the case against Keller during a still-unscheduled trial.

That is "monumentally unfair," said Chip Babcock, Keller's lawyer and a leading Texas attorney in his own right.

"I would do it for a dollar, too," Babcock said. "McKetta and I could duke it out for just a buck. That would be fun. The problem is that if the (Texas) Ethics Commission is correct ... I can't."

Last December, the ethics commission slapped Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht with a $29,000 fine, ruling that a $167,200 discount he received on legal fees amounted to a political contribution that exceeded the $5,000 limit on donations from law firms and from individual lawyers.

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