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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Controversy Erupts About Pending Execution of Person with Mental Retardation

We sent an email out today to more than 10,000 people urging them to call the governor. Keep calling Governor Perry at 512-463-1782 to get him to stop today's execution

From the Austin American-Statesman:

The scheduled execution tonight of a convicted Dallas killer has erupted in controversy after reports that a new test shows Derrick Lamone Johnson may be mentally retarded.

The U.S. Supreme Court has banned the execution of anyone who is mentally retarded.

Angered by a decision of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to confirm the execution of Johnson without reviewing the medical test information, then to stick with that vote in a second vote today, a group of lawmakers this afternoon asked Gov. Rick Perry to stop the execution slated for 6 p.m. tonight.

“It’s amazing to me how callous this system can be,” said state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “After a cursory review of the file, they vote to hang ‘em high no matter what the new information shows.”

Just as upset are Reps. Senfronia Thompson and Sylvester Turner, both D-Houston, and Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, who petitioned the parole board late Wednesday for a second vote based on the new medical test just received in the case.

“There is no reason why the State of Texas should rush to execute this man, before it can be confirmed whether or nothe is mentally retarded,” Turner said. “The parole board appears hell bent on sticking with their decision in favor of execution … It makes no sense.”

Johnson, 28, a 10th-grade dropout, was convicted in the 1999 slaying LaTausha Curry, who was kidnaped, beaten, suffocated and robbed of $10.

Thompson and Hodge said the parole board voted before lunch Wednesday to deny a reprieve, even though they had been advised that Johnson’s new attorney — who just joined the case in early April — was rushing to gather and submit new test results about his mental capacity.

“The test showed he is mildly retarded, in the low 70s,” Thompson said.

Hodge said the attorney got the information to the parole board at 12:38 p.m., after the deadline. While the board initially declined to review its decision, intense lobbying from Thompson, Turner and Hodge brought a review this morning.

In a letter to the lawmakers, Board Chair Rissie Owens said the seven-member board reconsidered a request from Johnson’s attorney for a 180-day reprieve — and decided against it.

“We’ve been through this before with Judge (Sharon) Keller (presiding judge of the state Court of Criminal Appeals) closing the doors at 5 p.m. and not allowing new information to be considered,” Hodge said. “It looks like the parole board tried the same thing … and now is just sticking with it’s earlier decision.

“We should do everything we can to consider all evidence, even new evidence, in these cases before we put someone to death,” she said. “When you talk about the ultimate penalty, we shouldn’t rush, even when it’s the last minute.”

Bruce Anton, Johnson’s attorney, and Owens could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Perry’s office was checking to see whether they had received a request for a stay of execution for Johnson. Perry has the authority to delay the execution, even if the parole board has recommended otherwise.

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Urgent Action to Stop Today's Execution of Person Claiming Mental Retardation: Derrick Johnson

Last night at around 11 PM, we received a call from one of our sources at the Texas capitol regarding the person set for execution TODAY, April 30, in Texas. We were told that the lawyer for Derrick Johnson presented a report by a doctor to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles that Johnson has mental retardation, but the BPP voted to deny him a stay of execution.

Johnson's lawyer is taking the request for a stay to federal court, but in the meantime we have been asked to urge people to call Rissie Owens, chair of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and urge her to hold another vote on Johnson's case and issue a 180 day stay of execution to determine whether Johnson has mental retardation.

International and US law prohibits the execution of people with mental retardation. Johnson is scheduled to be executed TODAY. Our source at the capitol says that several legislators have also spoken with Risse Owens urging her to allow the board to vote again and issue a stay of execution, including State Rep. Terri Hodge, Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Rep. Lon Burnam.

Rissie Owens' Phone Number in Austin at the BPP is (512) 406-5852

Call Governor Perry and urge him to issue a stay of execution so that Johnson's mental retardation claim can be evaluated. Gov Perry's phone number is 512-463-1782.

At this point, making phone calls is the most effective way to get the message to Owens and Perry.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Update on race to win $3,000 to Use Against the Death Penalty

We gained more than 100 votes today, so we are moving up in the race to win the Jenzabar Social Media Leadership Award contest for $3,000. We have already passed a couple of other groups.

Forward this to your friends and let's bring this money to Texas to use against the death penalty in the state where on June 2 the governor will be in office for the 200th execution since he became governor.

Visit the site www.protest200executions.com to learn more about planned protests of the 200th execution.

Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are jointly entered in the Jenzabar Social Media Leadership Award contest for $3,000. The winner is the entry that gets the most people to comment on their entry by May 8, so to "vote", you leave a comment on the blog post of their nomination. They deserve to win because they have used social media tools very effectively to jointly mobilize against the Texas death penalty.

Go here to vote by leaving a comment on the nomination page for our entry.

The cooperating groups are Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty and the Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center. They have a cause on Facebook called Abolish the Death Penalty in Texas. Each organization brings unique skills and experiences to the cause.

This alliance is a great example of how small organizations can have a remarkable impact way out of proportion to their funding by using social media tools to work together.

These grassroots groups work against the death penalty in the state that has executed more people than any other state. Texas has executed 436 people since 1982. The second place state has executed 103.

Monday, members of the groups were at the Texas capitol from 9:30 to 1 AM meeting with legislators about HB 2267 to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties, talking to the media and testifying at the hearing on the Sharon Keller impeachment resolution. In 2007, Texas Moratorium Network used online social media tools to gather around 1,900 signatures on a judicial complaint against Keller. Here is a video of a news report on Austin TV Monday night.

While at the capitol, they updated supporters online by posting to their blog, using Twitter and uploading video to Facebook and YouTube, all good examples of using social media tools to affect change and build a movement, and a good reason they should win the Social Media Leadership Award. Vote for them at the link below.

Go to the page and scroll down to the comment form. There are four fields, name, email, website (you can leave that blank or put in your own personal website or a website you like), and a text field for a comment.

Their entry is called "Texas Friends and Allies Against the Death Penalty"

From the entry:

This alliance is a great example of how small organizations can have a remarkable impact way out of proportion to their funding by using social media tools to work together.

Texas is a challenging political environment in which to work against the death penalty, but these groups have found a way to make significant progress against the death penalty by working together both offline and online using social media tools for education, outreach and grassroots organizing.

If you think these groups have been doing a good job using online social activism tools, especially considering that they are all-volunteer organizations, please vote for them in The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award by leaving a comment on their entry.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Report Fom Our Second Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty This Year

Yesterday, we were at the Texas capitol from 9:30 to 1 AM meeting with legislators about HB 2267 to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties, talking to the media and testifying at the hearing on the Sharon Keller impeachment resolution.

We spoke with members of the Calendars Committee about the Law of Parties and were encouraged by what we heard from a couple of offices. We also ran into Terri Hodge in the hall and exchanged a few hugs and thank yous.

While we were there, we updated our friends and supporters online around the world by posting to our blog, using Twitter and uploading videos while we were still at the capitol to Facebook and YouTube, all good examples of using social media tools to affect change and build a movement, and a good reason we should win the Social Media Leadership Award. Vote for us at the link below.

Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are jointly entered in the Jenzabar Social Media Leadership Award contest for $3,000. The winner is the entry that gets the most people to comment on their entry by April 30. To "vote", you leave a comment on the blog post at the link below.

http://thejenzabarfoundationblog.com/2009/04/24/texas-friends-and-allies-against-the-death-penalty

Our entry is called "Texas Friends and Allies Against the Death Penalty"

To vote for us to receive this award and the $3,000 prize, you just have to leave a comment on our nomination entry here:

http://thejenzabarfoundationblog.com/2009/04/24/texas-friends-and-allies-against-the-death-penalty

On that page scroll to the bottom, where you see "Leave a Comment", then enter your name, your email address, a website (you can skip that one if you don't have a website or you can enter any website you like), then enter your comment in the large box. Hit submit and that's all. The entry with the most comments wins.

Our group at the capitol yesterday included Scott Cobb (whose birthday was yesterday), Gloria Rubac, Crystal Wilson, Terri Been (sister of Jeff Wood), Lawrence Foster (grandfather of Kenneth Foster,jr) and Kenneth Foster Sr (father of Kenneth). We were joined later at the hearing by Hooman Hedayati, who gave some great testimony to the committee on Sharon Keller.

Here is a video of a news report on Austin TV that includes a statement by Terri Been and shots of us in the press conference by Lon Burnam.



Other videos we took during the day are on YouTube, including this video of the press conference.



We took this video of Lon Burnam around 12:30 AM last night. His message to our friends and supporters is "Call your state representative" and urge them to support the impeachment proceedings against Keller. We got the impeachment ball rolling last Fall when we approached Lon with the idea of impeaching Keller.

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Video of Hooman Hedayati Testifying at Sharon Keller Impeachment Hearing

The Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence took testimony on April 27, 2009 on Lon Burnam's resolution to impeach Sharon Keller.

Watch video of Hooman Hedayati testifying.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Democrat vows to push Keller impeachment

Democrat vows to push Keller impeachment
Burnam says state judge violated duty in death penalty case.

By Chuck Lindell
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam said Monday he will employ rarely used rules to try to force the Texas House to vote on impeaching the state's highest criminal judge for her role in a 2007 death penalty case.

Burnam, of Fort Worth, said Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is unfit to continue serving because of her pro-prosecution bias and because she turned away an after-hours appeal by lawyers for death row inmate Michael Richard, who was executed later that night.

"She's an embarrassment to the state, she's an embarrassment to the Republican Party, she's an embarrassment to her profession," Burnam said. "She needs to be off the bench."

Keller already faces a special trial on charges, filed by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, that she violated her duty to protect Richard's access to the legal system. The trial, to begin Aug. 17, could determine whether the Republican judge remains on the court she joined in 1995.

Keller's lawyer said she did nothing to warrant removal from office.

"What she did is not a violation of the canons of judicial ethics or any state statute," lawyer Chip Babcock said Monday. "Last election millions of Texans thought she was the superior candidate for office. I don't think impeachment or the commission ought to override the will of the people."

It has been 34 years since an elected Texas official, District Judge O.P. Carrillo of Duval County, was impeached and removed from office for a bogus rental scheme.

Burnam's effort faces an uncertain future in a Republican-run House with heavy workload and less than five weeks remaining in the session. But the Fort Worth Democrat vowed to seek Keller's ouster two ways:

• Via the traditional path — a resolution to create a seven-member House committee to study whether Keller committed "gross neglect of duty" and, if appropriate, refer articles of impeachment to the House. If the articles are accepted, a Senate trial will follow to determine whether Keller should be removed from office. If formed, the committee could work beyond the legislative session's June 1 close, Burnam said.

The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee was to consider House Resolution 480 in a hearing late Monday, but a vote was not expected.

• If that resolution fails, Burnam said, impeachment can bypass the normal requirement of committee approval before a bill goes to the House floor. The motion must be recognized by House Speaker Joe Straus to proceed, Burnam said.

Eric Opiela, executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, accused Burnam of trying to circumvent procedures established by the Legislature to investigate judges.

Burnam is trying "to make a political spectacle out of an investigation that is working its way through the Judicial Conduct Commission," Opiela said.

clindell@statesman.com, 912-2569

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Live Blogginng From Texas Capitol

The hearing on Lon Burnam's HR 480 has started. Click here to Watch a live streaming video of the Sharon Keller Impeachment Hearing
Click on Live Stream 4 to watch in the afternoon
Texas Legislature Website
April 27, 2009

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AP: Lawmaker vows to call for impeachment vote

Lawmaker vows to call for impeachment vote
By JIM VERTUNO Associated Press Writer © 2009 The Associated Press
April 27, 2009, 3:40PM

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas House lawmaker vowed Monday to try to force an impeachment vote on Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller before the legislative session ends June 1.

Keller, a Republican, is already facing judicial misconduct charges for failing to keep court offices open late the night of Sept. 25, 2007 when Michael Wayne Richard was executed. His lawyers have said that prevented them from filing an appeal.

Her misconduct trial is scheduled for August and could lead to her removal from the bench. But Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, is trying to impeach her before then, hoping lawmakers will force her out.

"This woman should not serve another day," Burnam said.

The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence committee is hearing testimony on Burnam's impeachment resolution Monday night, but he pledged to call for the vote by the full House sometime in the next few weeks regardless of what the panel does.

Burnam's resolution calls for the House to form a panel to investigate Keller for "gross neglect of duty and willing disregard for human life" and to ultimately send the charges to the Senate for a trial.

If the House accepts the articles of impeachment, Keller would be barred from serving on the bench until after her Senate trial, Burnam said.

Keller, who was not expected to testify before the House panel, has said the misconduct charges should be dismissed and that Richard's lawyers are to blame for missing his appeal.

Richard was convicted of the rape and murder of a Houston woman in 1986. Hours before his execution, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to review the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case. Richard's lawyers hoped that would help them delay his case as well.

Although court offices were to close at 5 p.m., Richard's attorneys asked for a 20-minute extension because computer problems were delaying efforts to file a late appeal. When contacted at home by the court's general counsel, Keller said the office should remain closed.

Keller has said she was not told of the computer problem. She said Richard's attorneys should have known how to file late appeals with the judge on duty that night, a process they had used in other cases.

Keller's refusal to keep the court open outraged defense attorneys and civil rights activists. A group of lawyers, including a state lawmaker and a former appellate judge, filed complaints with the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, saying Keller had violated Richard's civil rights.

Burnam filed his resolution of impeachment on Feb. 16 and the judicial conduct commission filed formal charges three days later.

Keller's attorney, Chip Babcock, said the August trial is the proper venue for Keller's case.

"It seems to me that the trial is the better place to get all the facts out," Babcock said.

Time is running short for Burnam to get his resolution before the full House. Normal procedures require it first to be approved by the committee and have it scheduled for a floor vote.

Texas has not impeached a state judge since the 1970s when a series of judicial scandals led to ethics reforms. Burnam said his research shows that he can call for an impeachment vote from the entire House without prior committee approval.

Burnam said he'll first wait to see if he's got majority support in the 150-member chamber where Republicans hold a slim 76-74 majority. But he pledged to call a vote before the end of the session regardless of whether he thinks he can prevail.

"I'd rather lose the vote than not have the vote," Burnam said.

Keller has been on the court since 1994. Her term expires in 2012.

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Written Testimony of Chuck Herrring to be Submitted at Sharon Keller Hearing

WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF CHARLES HERRING, JR.
CONCERNING H.R. NO. 480
IMPEACHMENT OF JUDGE SHARON KELLER

I am an attorney in private practice in Austin in
the law firm of Herring & Irwin, L.L.P. My principal
practice area is the law of lawyering--which focuses
on issues of legal ethics, legal malpractice, and
professional responsibility for Texas lawyers. In
1990, I wrote my first book, Texas Legal Malpractice
& Lawyer Discipline, which I now update annually.
Thus, I've been writing about and teaching legal
ethics for some 20 years. I also served two terms on
the Texas Supreme Court's Advisory Committee and
served as Chair of the Texas Supreme Court's
Statewide Task Force on Sanctions and also the State
Bar's Committee for the Prevention of Legal Malpractice
and Grievances. I have served as an expert witness on
legal ethics issues for the State Bar of Texas, for
the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, for the Office of
the Texas Attorney General, and for various private
lawyers and litigants. I've attached a copy of my
resume to this testimony. I offer this testimony
on my own behalf and not on behalf of any other
person or organization.

I appreciate this Committee's consideration of
H.R. No. 480, concerning the possible impeachment
of Judge Sharon Keller, and I respectfully offer
my testimony in support of the Resolution. In my
opinion, the conduct of Judge Keller, as reported
in the media and as charged in the "Notice of
Formal Proceedings" (hereinafter "Notice") in
Inquiry No. 96 before the State Commission on
Judicial Conduct, clearly meets the constitutional
standards for impeachment under Article XV of the
Texas Constitution, as well as the standards for
removal of a judge or justice from office, as
provided in Section 1-a(6)A of Article V of the
Texas Constitution.

Before I outline the specific allegations that
in my view meet those constitutional standards
for impeachment and removal, I want to emphasize
three general points that I believe make this
Resolution a particularly important matter for
legislative action.

First, if the published allegations are correct,
Judge Keller was personally responsible for
killing a man on a day when he should not have
died. That is the most severe possible consequence
imaginable for judicial misconduct.1 I submit that
if that type of egregious judicial misconduct,
with the most serious possible consequences
imaginable, does not require removal from office,
nothing does. By comparison, the charges against
the last judge impeached by this Texas House,
Judge O.P. Carrillo, alleged misconduct that
included stealing groceries; using public funds
to pay ranch hands and other private employees;
using public equipment on his ranch; filing a
false financial statement; having conflicts of
interest; and conspiring to improperly influence
a grand jury.2 The Texas Senate acquitted Judge
Carrillo on the impeachment article alleging
stealing groceries, but convicted him on an
article alleging conspiracy to collect government
rental monies on non-existent equipment--and
dismissed the other articles without a decision.3
In short, the Texas Legislature convicted Judge
Carrillo and removed him from office for false
rentals. He did not wrongfully cause anyone's
death, which is exactly what Judge Keller
allegedly did.

Second, based on Judge Keller's Answer filed
in the Commission on Judicial Conduct
proceedings, and based upon the published
remarks of her lawyer, it appears that she
is claiming that the lawyers for Mr. Richard
wanted some extraordinary relief in the form
of keeping the court clerk's office after 5:00
p.m., and then those lawyers capriciously or
negligently chose not to follow other available
remedies that permitted an after-hours filing.
If that is her position, I submit that her
position is simply not credible. The lawyers
who handled Michael Richard's case were with
the Texas Defender Service (TDS), which was
founded in 1995 and is the most skilled,
respected, and experienced organization in
Texas providing representation to persons on
death row. Their Board includes law school
professors from Texas and across the country
who are expert in death penalty law and
representation, including for example the
Co-Director of the Capital Punishment Center
at the University of Texas School of Law, and
the Co-Director of the Death Penalty Clinic at
Boalt School of Law. Professor Dow, who worked
on the Richard case, heads the Innocence Project
at the University of Houston. He is a superb
advocate, and he knows how these cases work as
well as anyone in Texas. In short, in this
field of law practice, they are the best and
most knowledgeable lawyers available. Their
commitment to justice is awe-inspiring and
legendary.

Third, I think it is very important that Judge
Keller's alleged misconduct took place in the
context of a death penalty case. The death penalty
is the ultimate criminal punishment. From 2002 to
2006, 40 percent of the executions in the United
States took place in Texas; in 2007, over 60
percent were in Texas; in 2008, over 50 percent.
Whether you are for or against the death penalty
in Texas is irrelevant to the merits of the present
matter. But those who support the death penalty
want that penalty administered fairly and legally.
More than any other single act in the history of
Texas, Judge Keller's conduct in this case has held
the death penalty and the Texas criminal justice
system up to international scorn and ridicule. If
you google "Sharon Keller," you get over 42,000
hits--and you find an almost unlimited number of
denunciations of Judge Keller and our system of
justice in Texas. We need to restore respect for
Texas justice. The Legislature can do that now,
promptly, and as the elected representatives of
the people of Texas, you can speak with the
authoritative voice that this case requires.4

Turning to the grounds for impeachment, I note
that Section 2 of H.R. No. 480 identifies as
possible grounds for impeachment the following:

. . . 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.

In one sense, the charge is broad: "gross neglect
of duty . . . including . . . ." However, in fact
the charge appears to be quite narrow, focusing
on her actions during, at most, a few hours on a
single day--"in connection with her actions
occurring on the evening of September 25, 2007."
The charge fits well within the broad
constitutionally permissible framework for
impeachment in Texas, as enunciated at length
by the Texas Supreme Court in Ferguson v. Maddox,
263 S.W. 888 (Tex. 1924):

While impeachable offenses are not defined in
the Constitution, they are very clearly
designated or pointed out by the term
'impeachment,' which at once connotes the offenses
to be considered and the procedure for the trial
thereof. . . . 'Impeachment,' at the time of the
adoption of the Constitution, was an established
and well-understood procedure in English and
American parliamentary law, and it had been
resorted to from time to time in the former
country for perhaps 500 years. It was designed,
primarily, to reach those in high places guilty
to official delinquencies or maladministration.
It was settled that the wrongs justifying
impeachment need not be statutory offenses or
common-law offenses, or even offenses against
any positive law. Generally speaking, they were
designated as high crimes and misdemeanors, which,
in effect meant nothing more than grave official
wrongs.

In the nature of things, these offenses cannot be
defined, except in the most general way. A
definition can, at best, do little more than state
the principle upon which the offense rests.
Consequently, no attempt was usually made to
define impeachable offenses, and the futility as
well as the unwisdom of attempting to do so has
been commented upon. . . .

When the Constitution of Texas was adopted, it
was done in the light of, and with a full
knowledge and understanding of, the principles of
impeachment as theretofore established in English
and American parliamentary procedure. The
Constitution in this matter of impeachment created
nothing new. By it, something existing and well
understood was simply adopted. The power granted
to the House to 'impeach,' and the Senate to try
'impeachment,' carries with it, by inevitable
implication, the power to the one to prefer and
to the other to try charges for such official
delinquencies, wrongs, or malfeasances as justified
impeachment according to the principles established
by the common law and the practice of the English
Parliament and the parliamentary bodies in America.
The grant of the general power of 'impeachment'
properly and sufficiently indicates the causes
for its exercise.

It is said this construction of the Constitution
confers arbitrary and unrestrained power on the
Senate. Not so at all. There is no such thing
under our government as arbitrary power. As has
often been said, it is a government of laws,
and not a government of men. We most
emphatically repudiate the idea that any officer
may be arbitrarily impeached. In the exercise of
its exalted jurisdiction, the Senate must proceed
according to law. It must ascertain the law by an
examination of the Constitution, legal treatises,
the common law and parliamentary precedents, and
therefrom determine the nature, elements, and
characteristics of impeachable offenses, and, in
the light of reason, apply the principles so
worked out to the facts of the case before it.
This is not arbitrary power. It is the exercise
of judicial authority under the Constitution. . . .

Id. at 892. As the Texas Supreme Court emphasized,
the impeachment remedy provided by the Texas
Constitution is necessary for "the protection of
the people from official delinquencies or
malfeasances." Id. Clearly, all citizens should
be entitled to protection from wrongful execution
without due process of law, and all citizens should
be entitled to a fair chance to present their cases
in court. If Judge Keller did what she is accused
of having done, it is difficult to imagine a
greater judicial threat to the integrity of the
criminal justice system and to the rights and
the very lives of Texans whose fates are entrusted
to that system.

In addition to the broad parameters for impeachment
explained in Ferguson and the specific categories
of charges outlined in the Resolution, the
standards for removal of judges and justices set
forth in Section 1-a(6) of the Texas Constitution
also are relevant. In pertinent part, that provision
states:

Any Justice or Judge of the courts established by
this Constitution or created by the Legislature as
provided in Section 1, Article V, of this
Constitution, may, subject to the other provisions
hereof, be removed from office for willful or
persistent violation of rules promulgated by the
Supreme Court of Texas, incompetence in performing
the duties of the office, willful violation of
the Code of Judicial Conduct, or willful or
persistent conduct that is clearly inconsistent
with the proper performance of his duties or casts
public discredit upon the judiciary or
administration of justice.

Certainly the Resolution's references to Judge
Keller's alleged "gross neglect of duty" and
conducting her official duties "with willful
disregard for human life" are consistent with
the standards in Section 1-a(6).

As stated in the Preamble to the Texas Code of
Judicial Conduct (hereinafter "the Code"), the
Code is intended to "state basic standards which
should govern the conduct of all judges and to
provide guidance to assist judges in establishing
and maintaining high standards of judicial and
personal conduct." One of the most fundamental and
important precepts in the Code is Canon 2A, which
provides as follows:

A judge shall comply with the law and should act
at all times in a manner that promotes public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of
the judiciary.

If, as the Commission's Notice has alleged, and
as published reports indicate, Judge Keller willfully
and persistently failed to follow the Court's
Execution-day Procedures, she has violated this
core principle of judicial conduct. The national
and international condemnation heaped upon the
Texas criminal justice system as a result of
Judge Keller's actions indicates that she has
not acted in a manner "that promotes public
confidence in the integrity and impartiality of
the judiciary." That conduct also fits well
within the language of the Resolution, "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." If Judge Keller effectively
foreclosed access to court, she also apparently
violated Canon 2A, and engaged in "gross neglect
of duty," in violating Section 13 of Article 1 of the
Texas Constitution, which provides that "[a]ll courts
shall be open, and every person . . . shall have remedy
by due course of law." Furthermore, the same conduct
would have violated Canon 3B(8) of the Code, which
provides that "[a] judge shall accord to every person
who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that
person's lawyer, the right to be heard according to
law."

For these reasons, I respectfully request that this
Committee vote in favor of H.R. No. 480. I appreciate
your patience in considering my views.

NOTE: Chuck Herring is a member of the TCRP Board of
Directors.

==============================================

Texas Civil Rights Project

http://www.texascivilrightsproject.org/

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Written Testimony of Jim Harrington to be Submitted at Sharon Keller Hearing

Legislative testimony by TCRP board member and
TCRP director regarding the proposed impeachment
of Judge Sharon Keller:

* * *

April 24, 2009

A Letter to the House Committee on Judiciary
& Civil Jurisprudence

The Texas Legislature

Re: HR 480 (impeaching Judge Sharon Keller)

Honorable Chair and Committee Members:

As Director of a statewide civil rights nonprofit
organization, I respectfully urge passage of HR-480
so that the House of Representatives may begin the
process of considering the impeachment of Judge
Sharon Keller for abuse of her office, one of the
most important judicial positions in the state.

IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY NECESSARY AND PROPER

Attached to this testimony are the Notice of
Formal Proceedings (No. 96), Inquiry Concerning
a Judge, before the State Commission on Judicial
Conduct and the Ethics Experts' Declaration, filed
in that same matter. I need not repeat the
allegations and statements in those documents, but
I do accept, ratify, and incorporate them as part
of my testimony.

I agree in all respects with the twenty-four
ethics experts, who recently advised the Commission
of Judicial Conduct that Judge Keller is "guilty
of 'incompetence in performing the duties of office,
willful violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct,
[and] willful [and] persisted conduct that is
clearly inconsistent with the performance of [her]
duties.' In addition, her egregious misconduct
'casts public discredit upon the judiciary [and
upon the] administration of justice.' [footnote
omitted]" The same in my view supports impeachment
of Judge Keller or, more to the point, are more
than sufficient for this committee to recommend
to the House that it appoint an impeachment
committee on this matter.

These charges, if true and I believe them to be
so, are more than enough to support impeachment,
but there is another reason, even stronger than
the others -- Judge Keller essentially deprived
Michael Richard of his life for at least eight
months, that is, she caused his life to be ended
early without due process. The victim of Judge
Keller's action was Doreen Anderson, Mr. Richard's
daughter, who had a close relationship with her
father.

How does one quantify the eight months or more
that Ms. Anderson lost with her father? He may
have been convicted of a crime, but she was not.

APPROPRIATE FOR HOUSE INVESTIGATION -- VOTERS'
SOLE REMEDY

"The power of impeachment shall be vested in the
House of Representatives." Tex. Const. art. XV,
� 1. At the time Texas adopted its constitution
in 1876, impeachment was well-established in
English and American parliamentary law. Ferguson
v. Maddox, 263 S.W. 888, 892 (Tex. 1924).

Impeachment is designed to reach officials in
high places who are guilty of "official
delinquencies or maladministration." The offense
does not need to be a statutory or common law
offense. Impeachment offenses are generally
considered high crimes and misdemeanors, which at
the time the constitution was adopted meant grave
official wrongs. Id..

Because of the nature of impeachment, the
offenses cannot be defined, but it is a general
principle upon which the offenses rest can be
stated. Id. The U.S. Constitution defines
impeachment offenses as "treason, bribery, or
other high crimes and misdemeanors" U.S. Const.
art. 2, � 4.

Many states mirror this language in their own
constitutions, while others add "misdemeanors
in office," "maladministration," "oppression in
office" and other similar offenses. Ferguson,
263 S.W. at 892. The Texas Constitution adopted
the existing and well-known principle of
impeachment, as understood at the time. Id.

Impeachment is the only remedy and
accountability mechanism under the Texas
Constitution. Judicial immunity shields judges
against state and federal litigation. We tried
in the case of Judge Keller, and our federal suit
was dismissed for that reason.

Even though the Commission on Judicial Conduct is
considering an action against Judge Keller, it may
or may not take appropriate action. However, the
only constitutional remedy is impeachment by the
representatives of the people.

The framers of the 1876 Texas Constitution and
the voters who ratified it created a strong
judiciary. The 1876 Constitution deliberately
fashioned a weak legislature and a weak governor
because of past abuses of power. The judiciary was
the one branch of government that kept power, and
very extensive power. The drafters of the
constitution felt that only judges could protect
the people against the government and monied
interests taking away their rights. For that reason,
the populist tradition of electing judges was framed
into our current constitution. The authors of the
constitution and voters wanted to elect their judges
to keep direct control over them so they would not
become beholden again to the big financial interests
of the state and political caprice -- as they had
been in prior times when appointed by the governor.

Impeachment thus is the people's way of undoing
the election of a judge who has betrayed their
trust and acted with "official delinquency," that
is, abused their office to the extent of violating
the mandate to administer fairly and impartially
the constitutions of the nation and of the state.

The charges against Judge Keller are sufficiently
grave that the House of Representatives has to duty
to formally consider them, and then act on them. We
believe the ultimate conclusion of this process
would be impeachment by the House, trial by the
Senate, and removal from office.

Whether Judge Keller is ultimately convicted or
vindicated is for a later date, but the House must
at least be faithful to its obligation to formally
consider and act on the substantial charges brought
against her.

Thank you kindly for your attention.

James C. Harrington
Director
Texas Civil Rights Project

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Live Video Later Today of Sharon Keller Impeachment Hearing

To watch a live video stream of the Sharon Keller impeachment resolution hearing today, go to the Texas Legislature website and click on Live Stream 4 later this afternoon. The committee meeting will start upon adjournment of the House, sometime around 1 PM or so in room E2.010.

Sign the new petition to remove Sharon Keller.

There are lots of bills on the agenda, so we don't know what time they will get to the impeachment resolution. Come in the afternoon today and you will be able to sign in to support Keller's impeachment.

The resolution, HR 480 by Lon Burnam, would create a select committee in the House to investigate further whether Sharon Keller should be impeached for her refusal to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5 PM for a person on the day of his execution.

If you believe that Keller should be impeached, please plan to attend and fill out a Witness Affirmation form in support of HR 480. Go to the capitol and sign a witness affirmation form in support of HR 480. It only takes five minutes to fill out the form, but you have to be there in person to fill it out and turn it in.


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

COMMITTEE: Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence
TIME & DATE: upon final adjourn./recessMonday, April 27, 2009

PLACE: E2.010
CHAIR: Rep. Todd Hunter


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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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Help Texas Anti-Death Penalty Groups Win $3,000 to Use Against the Death Penalty

Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are jointly entered in the Jenzabar Social Media Leadership Award contest for $3,000. The winner is the entry that gets the most people to comment on their entry by April 30, so to "vote", you leave a comment. We have a good chance to win this and we deserve to win because we have all used social media tools very effectively to jointly mobilize against the Texas death penalty.

Your comment won't show up immediately, because it seems like the comments are moderated by the Foundation, so they should update the comments from the weekend on Monday.

http://tinyurl.com/cyf8fx

To help us win, you can just leave a short comment or a longer one on our entry. Go to the page and scroll down to the comment form. There are four fields, name, email, website (you can leave that blank or put in your own personal website or a website you like, such as the one of the sites of our anti-death penalty groups), and a field for your comment. Short comments could be like "nice work" "good job", "they are doing a great job", "impressive work, "I hope they win", etc etc. Several Texas anti-death penalty groups are entered jointly, so in your comment you can be specific to one group or say something general about all the groups.

Our entry is called "Texas Friends and Allies Against the Death Penalty"

http://thejenzabarfoundationblog.com/2009/04/24/texas-friends-and-allies...

From the entry:

I would like to nominate for The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award: a group of allied organizations in Texas that have been using social media to effectively work together against the Texas death penalty: Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the Austin chapter of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty and the Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center. These groups have a cause on Facebook called Abolish the Death Penalty in Texas. Each organization brings unique skills and experiences to the cause. Decisions on how to use any award money will be made jointly by these organizations.

This alliance is a great example of how small organizations can have a remarkable impact way out of proportion to their funding by using social media tools to work together.

Texas is a challenging environment in which to work against the death penalty, but these groups have found a way to make significant progress against the death penalty by working together both offline and online using social media tools for education, outreach and grassroots organizing.

Texas is a large state, so it is vitally important for groups here to use social media tools effectively. In the future, we want to increase our capacity to work for human rights in Texas by finding new ways to expand our use of online social media tools in order to identify new activists and grow our movement to achieve legislative victories on policy and to organize campaigns to stop specific executions.

Most recently, these groups all worked together to get the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to approve the bill to end the death penalty under the Law of Parties. We continue to push for a vote on that bill in the full House. On Monday, April 27, we are holding our second Lobby Day of the year in order to meet with more legislators about the bill and on May 2 we are holding a march and rally for the Law of Parties bill in Austin. We also have worked together on the campaign to remove Sharon Keller and of course on the annual March to Stop Executions.

If you think these groups have been doing a good job using online social activism tools, especially considering that we are all-volunteer organizations, please vote for us in The Jenzabar Foundation Social Media Leadership Award by leaving a comment on our entry.

http://tinyurl.com/cyf8fx

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Rep. Burnam to Hold Press Conference on Impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller

April 27, 2009

For Immediate Release Contact: Daniel Williams, 512-463-0740

Rep. Burnam to Hold Press Conference on
Impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller

AUSTIN - The Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will hear public testimony on April 27th regarding a resolution to begin the impeachment of Chief Justice Sharon Keller of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

House Resolution 480 accuses Judge Keller of "neglect of duty" for declining to keep her office open past 5 pm to receive the final pleadings of condemned inmate, Michael Richard, on September 25, 2007.

Richard's appeal was based on announcements made by the United States Supreme Court the morning of the scheduled execution. Although Richard was executed that night, the Court of Criminal Appeals (over which Judge Keller presides) later granted two stays of execution based on the same arguments Richard's lawyers attempted to present.

If passed, HR 480 calls on the House of Representatives to form a committee to investigate Judge Keller for "gross neglect of duty and willing disregard for human life." If the House finds cause for impeachment, a trial would then be held in the State Senate.

"It's one thing for a banker to close shop at five o'clock sharp," said Rep. Lon Burnam, the principal author of the resolution. "But a public official who stands between a human being and the death chamber must be held to a higher standard."

Rep. Burnam will discuss his resolution to form a committee to investigate the impeachment of Judge Keller.

WHO: Rep. Lon Burnam

WHAT: Press conference to discuss the impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller

WHEN: Monday, 27, 2009 - 12:00 pm or upon adjournment of the house

WHERE: 2W.6 - Speaker's Conference Room , Texas State Capitol, 1100 Congress Ave

Austin, TX 78701

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sharon Keller Impeachment Resolution Hearing Monday, April 27

The Sharon Keller impeachment resolution is officially on the agenda in the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence for Monday, April 27. The committee meeting will start upon adjournment of the House, sometime around 1 PM or so in room E2.010.


Sign the new petition to remove Sharon Keller.


There are lots of bills on the agenda, so we don't know what time they will get to the impeachment resolution. Come in the afternoon on Monday and you will be able to sign in to support Keller's impeachment.

The resolution, HR 480 by Lon Burnam, would create a select committee in the House to investigate further whether Sharon Keller should be impeached for her refusal to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5 PM for a person on the day of his execution.

If you believe that Keller should be impeached, please plan to attend and fill out a Witness Affirmation form in support of HR 480. Put April 27 on your calendar as a day to go to the capitol and sign a witness affirmation form in support of HR 480. It only takes five minutes to fill out the form, but you have to be there in person to fill it out and turn it in.


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

COMMITTEE: Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence
TIME & DATE: upon final adjourn./recessMonday, April 27, 2009

PLACE: E2.010
CHAIR: Rep. Todd Hunter


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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Letter from Ethicists to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct Calling for Sharon Keller's Removal

Ethicists Call for Sharon Keller's Removal Ethicists Call for Sharon Keller's Removal Scott Cobb Filed April 20, 2009 with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct by two dozen of the nation's leading judicial ethicists. They call for Keller's removal saying "her egregious misconduct 'casts public discredit upon the judiciary [and upon the] administration of justice.'" They conclude, "These violations are sufficiently serious to require Judge Keller be removed from the bench."

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Contact Information for Members of the House Calendars Committee

Contact members of the Texas House Committee on Calendars

Urge Them to Send HB 2267 to the Floor of the House for a Vote.
HB 2267 Would Prohibit Death Sentences Under the Law of Parties.

Sample Message (change it to your own words) “Hello, I am calling to urge Representative X to vote in the Calendars Committee to send HB 2267, the Law of Parties bill, to the floor of the House for a vote. HB 2267 would require separate trials for co-defendants in capital trials and would prohibit the state from seeking the death penalty for people who do not kill anyone but are convicted under the Law of Parties. I do not believe it is fair to sentence someone to death, like Kenneth Foster was, if they did not kill anyone. Thank you”.

The Law of Parties allows people who "should have anticipated" a murder to receive the death penalty for the actions of another person who killed someone. A person sentenced to death under the Law of Parties has not killed anyone. They are accomplices or co-conspirators of one felony, such as robbery, during which another person killed someone.

Please contact your own state representative and at least some of the committee members on the list below. You can find out who your own representative is at: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us

Members of the House Committee on Calendars

Rep. Brian McCall (Chair) Plano Republican
Email form for McCall: http://tinyurl.com/BrianMcCall
Room 1W.11, Capitol Bld.
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0594 Phone
(512) 474-7512 Fax

Rep. Eddie Lucio III Democrat Cameron County
Email form for Lucio http://tinyurl.com/EddieLucioIII
Room EXT E1.318
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0606 Phone
(512) 463-0660 Fax

Rep. Norma Chavez El Paso Democrat
Email form for Chavez http://tinyurl.com/NormaChavez
Room CAP GN.8
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0622 Phone
(512) 478-6755 (Fax)

Rep. Garnet Coleman Houston Democrat
Email form for Coleman http://tinyurl.com/GarnetColeman
Room GW.17, Capitol Building
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0524 Phone
(512) 463-1260 Fax

Rep. Byron Cook Navarro County Republican
Email form for Cook http://tinyurl.com/ByronCook
Room EXT E2.410
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0730 Phone
(512) 463-2506 Fax

Rep. Brandon Creighton Conroe Republican
Email form for Creighton http://tinyurl.com/BrandonCreighton
Room EXT E1.412
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0726 Phone
(512) 463-8428 Fax


Rep. Charlie Geren Tarrant County Republican
Email address: charlie.geren@house.state.tx.us
Room E2.308, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0610 Phone
(512) 463-8310 Fax

Rep. Jim Keffer (Eastland) Republican
Email form for Keffer http://tinyurl.com/JimKeffer
Room E2.418, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0656 Phone
(512) 478-8805 Fax

Rep. Lois W. Kohlkorst (Brenham) Republican
Email form for Kohlkorst http://tinyurl.com/LoisKohlkorst
Room E2.318, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0600 Phone
(512) 463-5240 Fax

Rep. Edmund Kuempel Seguin Republican
Email form for Kuempel http://tinyurl.com/EdmundKuempel
Room CAP 3N.06
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0602 Phone
(512) 480-0391 Fax

Rep. Jim McReynolds Lufkin Democrat
Email form for McReynolds http://tinyurl.com/JimMcReynolds
Room CAP 1W.3
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
(512) 463-0490 Phone
(512) 463-9059 Fax

Rep. Allen Ritter Jefferson County Democrat
Email form for Ritter http://tinyurl.com/AllenRitter
Room E2.406, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0706 Phone
(512) 463-1861 Fax

Rep. Burt R. Solomons Denton County Republican
Email form for Solomons http://tinyurl.com/BurtSolomons
Room E1.420, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0478 Phone
(512) 463-2089 Fax

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Law of Parties Bill Approved by House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

The Law of Parties bill today passed the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

HB 2267 in the Texas Legislature would prohibit the state from seeking the death penalty for people in Law of Parties cases, which is a law that allows non-killers to be sentenced to death for the actions of another person. Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death under the Law of Parties before his death sentence was commuted to life in 2007 by Governor Perry.

Rep Hodge's bill was approved in the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence on April 21. It now goes to the Calendars Committee.

Scott Cobb recorded this video of Rep Hodge talking about HB 2267 about an hour after the bill was approved in committee.

We have a lot of work to do to get the bill passed by Calendars and through the entire House, but today's approval was a major victory. The victory was made possible by the efforts of many people, including Rep Hodge, Rep Dutton, their staffs, and the many people who attended the Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty on March 24 to visit legislators in person or called or emailed legislators urging them to pass the bill.

Special thanks go to all the family members of people on death row under the Law of Parties who came to Lobby Day or who testified in committee for the bill. This victory belongs to you!


Rep Terri Hodge on Committee Approval of Law of Parties Bill from Scott Cobb on Vimeo.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Protests of the 200th Execution Under Texas Governor Rick Perry

On June 2, 2009, the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take place. Since he became governor of Texas in December 2000, Perry has signed more execution orders than any other governor in U.S. history.

Terry Hankins is scheduled to be the 200th person executed under Rick Perry. If he or anyone scheduled before him receives a stay of execution, then the 200th person will be the next person on the list. We hope everyone receives a stay!

The Texas anti-death penalty community asks people around the world to focus your attention on Texas and join us in protesting the 200th execution carried out under Rick Perry. Altogether, Texas has executed 436 people since 1982, including 152 under former Texas Governor George W. Bush.

How you can protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry

Visit www.protest200executions.com for updates.

1) On the day of the 200th execution, call Governor Perry at 512-462-1782 and tell him your opinion on the death penalty. If you live in the U.S., you can use his the form on his website to email him. We suggest you both call him and email him. If you live outside the U.S., you can fax him at (512) 463-1849 or send him a letter in the postal mail. We would like to hand deliver letters to him, so please send your letter to the address below and we will deliver it to Rick Perry: You can send us your letter to Perry for us to deliver whether you live in the U.S. or another country.

Texas Moratorium Network

3616 Far West Blvd, Suite 117, Box 251

Austin, Texas 7831

2) Attend a protest in your city either on the day of the 200th execution or sometime before. There are protests already planned. If a protest is not scheduled yet in your city, you can organize a protest. If you live outside the U.S., organize a protest at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Send us a photo or video of your protest by email and we will post it on this website and on YouTube. Or you can upload your photos and videos yourself to our social networking site or directly to our group on YouTube. If your organization is planning a protest, please let us knowso that we can list your protest on this site.

3) Sign the petition and add your name to the list of people who are raising their voices to protest the 200th execution under Texas Governor Rick Perry.

4) Donate a symbolic 200 cents towards helping us organize against the Texas death penalty. That is one penny for every execution under Rick Perry. We are asking everyone to donate $2, which is the equivalent of 200 pennies. You are welcome to donate more if you can afford it, but everyone can afford to donate $2.

The artwork at the top of www.protest200executions.com is by German artist Jasmin Hilmer and represents the isolation of Texas in the world community. While most of the rest of the world, including all of Europe, have turned their backs on the use of capital punishment, Texas continues to execute people at a shocking rate.

This campaign is sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin, Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Abolish the Death Penalty Project on Amazee. If your organization would also like to be a sponsor, email us at admin@texasmoratorium.org or call 512-961-6389.

Video of Scott Cobb Talking About 200th Execution Protests at Rally at UT-Austin.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hearing Set for Sharon Keller Impeachment Resolution

We have heard that the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will hold a public hearing on the proposal to impeach Judge Sharon Keller on Monday, April 27.

This resolution, HR 480 by Lon Burnam, would create a select committee in the House to investigate further whether Sharon Keller should be impeached for her refusal to accept an appeal 20 minutes after 5 PM for a person on the day of his execution.

If you believe that Keller should be impeached, please plan to attend and fill out a Witness Affirmation form in support of HR 480. We will announce the time and room number of the hearing as soon as we confirm those details, but put April 27 on your calendar as a day to go to the capitol and sign a witness affirmation form in support of HR 480. It only takes five minutes to fill out the form, but you have to be there in person to fill it out and turn it in.


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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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

UT-Austin Rally Against the Death Penalty - Wednesday, April 15 at Noon

AUSTIN TEXAS, APRIL 15, 2009

RALLY AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY AT UT!

12 NOON ON THE WEST MALL!

AND IN THE EVENING...At UT Austin in UTC Rm. 3.122 at 7 pm.

(On 21st just west of Speedway.)

LIVE CALL IN FROM JOHN BOOTH-EL – MARYLAND DEATH ROW PRISONER, AND FROM TIMOTHY MCKINNEY - TENNESSEE DEATH ROW PRISONER.

And featuring:Sandra Reed – Mother of Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed

Kenneth Foster, Sr. – Father of Kenneth Foster, Jr., commuted of Texas death row.

Terri Been – Sister of Texas death row prisoner Jeff Wood, convicted under Law of Parties.

The CEDP is hosting a national tour, "Live From Death Row," featuring the voices of death row prisoners, live from their prison cell. Death sentences de-humanize the condemned, justifying the state-sponsored murder of the poor, the innocent and people of color. Death rows isolate those sentenced to die, denying them human contact and hope for justice. In our "Live From Death Row" tour, the voices of death row prisoners will reach from behind the walls to share their stories of loss, injustice, struggle, and hope for an end to the death penalty. At a time when the national chorus against the death penalty continues to grow, these voices are critical for the movement on the outside. Live From Death Row Tour stops all over the country have drawn hundreds of people and featured live calls from death row prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal in Pennsylvania and Troy Davis in Georgia. Don't miss your chance to be a part of a such emotionally powerful and socially important event!


"These are America's condemned, who bear a stigma far worse than 'prisoner.' These are America's death row residents: men and women who walk the razor's edge between half-life and certain death." —Mumia Abu-Jamal, Live From Death Row

CO-SPONSORED BY CEDP-AUSTIN AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL-UT AUSTIN.

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Kinky Friedman Announces for Governor: Says "get rid of the death penalty"

Kinky Friedman sent an email out today announcing that he is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas in the 2010 primary election. One of his positions is that Texas should abolish the death penalty.

Kinky was one of almost 1900 people who signed Texas Moratorium Network's complaint against Sharon Keller that we turned in to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2007. The Commission charged Keller with misconduct and her trial starts on August 17 in Austin. Kinky also signed the Texas Moratorium Network petition for a moratorium on executions in 2005.

We will be watching to see if Tom Schieffer endorses a moratorium on executions. Schieffer has formed an expoloratory committee to seek support for a run for governor in the 2010 Democratic primary.

The Texas Democratic Party platform has endorsed a moratorium on executions since 2004 when TMN's Scott Cobb was elected to the platform committee at the state convention and wrote a new section on capital punishment in the party platform.

Below is an undated video of Kinky talking about the death penalty.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Judge Says Executed Man Might Have Been Innocent

The Cleburn-Times Review in Johnson County Texas has an article in today's paper that says that senior district judge C.C. “Kit” Cooke, who presided over the trial of Richard Wayne Jones, believes Jones may have been innocent. Jones was executed in 2000 in Huntsville.

The third case, in which Richard Wayne Jones was convicted and sentenced to death in Fort Worth in 1987, bothers Cooke to this day.

It contributed to his belief that the death penalty is assessed too liberally in Texas.

Jones, he said, might have been innocent of the crime for which he was executed in 2000.

“Richard claimed innocence forever,” Cooke said. “To be honest, that’s when I started having some doubts about trying capital murder cases. I tended to believe his story. The facts were that he’d been to the penitentiary two or three times. According to his statement [which Jones said was coerced], he decided he was going to kill somebody when he got out.

“He set up a crafts store in Arlington. A petite lady came in to buy yarn so she could knit her brother a sweater. [Jones] picked her out at random. He took her out and raped her and murdered her, then set her on fire.

“When there’s a fire, there is no DNA. So there was no way for the jury to know if he raped her. The jury convicted him. All the way through his appeals, he said he was innocent. An author in England [Wendy Schmid-Eastwood] took up his cause. She wrote a book [“Twisted Truth”] that exerted a lot of influence. She funded his appeal.

“He had the best lawyers, Jack Strickland and Bill Lane at trial level, and I appointed Allan Butcher on appeal. All three were top-notch lawyers who had tried people who were guilty.

“Lane especially did not think he was guilty, and Allan had some real doubts. I got a letter from an inmate saying we were killing the wrong guy, though you always look at those things with a jaundiced eye.

“The case languished a long time [14 years]. Sharon Wilson was the prosecutor. She went to Huntsville for the execution. Richard looked at her and said, ‘Sharon Wilson, you’re killing the wrong man.’ ”

Cooke said he did well by Jones.

“Did I do everything I could? Yeah,” he said. “I’m convinced he had the best lawyers. I did have some doubt [about Jones’ guilt]. I would have been more comfortable if he could have been locked away for life with no parole.”

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