Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bill Filed to Require Court of Criminal Appeals to Stay Open on Execution Days

State Rep Marc Veasy of Dallas has filed a bill requiring the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and its clerk's office to stay open on execution days. In 2007, Sharon Keller violated the rules of the court by having the Court's general counsel tell lawyers for Michael Richard that the court closed at 5. In reality, the court itself did not close at 5 and Keller should have told the general counsel to inform the duty judge of the request to file a late appeal. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has charged Keller in a Notice of Formal Proceedings with misconduct and could vote to remove her from office.

This bill can be seen as an extra safeguard since there are already rules in place at the Court of Criminal Appeals that require the general counsel to be present at the Court on the day of an execution and for the duty judge to also be present at the court or "immediately available". Those rules were in effect on the day that Keller violated them. If the rules are adjusted, they should require that all judges be present at the court until the execution has taken place.

Below is the bill filed by Veasey

81R10620 CAE-D

By: Veasey H.B. No. 2189

relating to the hours of operation of the court of criminal appeals
on a day an execution is scheduled to occur.
SECTION 1. Subchapter B, Chapter 22, Government Code, is
amended by adding Section 22.113 to read as follows:
Sec. 22.113. COURT HOURS ON DAY OF EXECUTION. On a day a
convict is scheduled to be executed, the court of criminal appeals
and clerk's office for the court shall remain open until the
execution has occurred if the court has been notified by the
attorney of record for the convict that the attorney will file
documents with the court requesting a stay of execution.
SECTION 2. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this
Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

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