Friday, September 04, 2009

After Todd Willingham and Sharon Keller Debacles, Where are the Candidates Challenging Members of the CCA?

Where are the Democratic candidates challenging the incumbents on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who are running for re-election in 2010? The CCA allowed an innocent person to be executed - Todd Willingham. It is the court that one of its own current members says became a national laughingstock years before Sharon Keller said "we close at 5". Keller, its presiding judge, is charged with incompetence and misconduct and could be removed from office.

The three incumbents on the CCA up for re-election in 2010 are: Lawrence Meyers, Michael Keasler and Cheryl Johnson.

Meyers made a laughable, dishonest claim that the CCA has a reputation for fairness in his re-election annoucement. “I am seeking re-election to the Court to continue to be an objective voice and ensure that we maintain our reputation for delivering fair and just opinions,” said Meyers in announcing his candidacy for re-election. Tell that to Todd Willingham, whose last appeal based on actual innocence was denied on the day he was executed, "We have reviewed the subsequent application for habeas relief and find that it does not meet the requirements for consideration under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 11.071, § 5 as a claim of newly discovered evidence of actual innocence."

The Dallas Morning News blog said "try not laugh" at Meyers' claim that the CCA has a reputation for fairness. Meyers deserves an opponent.

Michael Keasler is one of the most, far-right, conservative members of the CCA and also deserves an opponent. Grits for Breakfast has said, "There is no liberal wing on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. There's a conservative wing, to which Judge Johnson belongs, and a more or less totalitarian wing, in which Keasler and Meyers reside along with Presiding Judge Sharon Keller."

Cheryl Johnson does not deserve an opponent. Johnson was the duty judge on call the day Keller said "we close at 5" when lawyers for a man set for execution wanted to submit an appeal after 5 pm. Keller violated the Execution-Day Procedures of her own court when she failed to inform Johnson about any communications from Richard's lawyers. She testified for the prosecution in the trial against Sharon Keller, saying that she would have not said "we close at 5" like Keller did, but that she would have allowed lawyers for Michael Richard to submit their appeal instead of slamming the doors of justice closed. Johnson should probably be given a profile in courage award.

Currently there are no Democrats serving on the Court of Criminal Appeals, but we hope the Democrats find 2 strong candidates to run in 2010. It does not serve justice to have every member of any court to be all from the same political party. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been all-Republican for more than a decade. It has become the "worst court in the state" (according to Texas Monthly), if not the entire U.S.

Democrats would have a chance to grab two seats on the CCA, if they find some quality candidates. Usually statewide judicial races are won by the same party that wins the governor's race, but this could be the year that the Democrats could win a seat on the CCA no matter what the outcome of the gubernatorial race is because of the extremely poor reputation of the CCA.

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