Death Kind Of Prevents Real Justice In This Case
In a recent post, I told you about a horrible event in the halls of justice in Texas, when a man was executed because an appeal had been refused for being filed minutes late. Today there is action to make sure that doesn't happen again, and to punish the person responsible for the atrocity.
It may be impossible to remove the stain that Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has placed on the state's judiciary. But two lawyer-driven actions might keep it from spreading.
More than 300 members of the Texas bar joined a petition last week asking Judge Keller's court to adopt modern procedures and allow e-mailed filings in death penalty cases. Of course it should.
Electronic filing in life-or-death cases might have avoided Judge Keller's disgraceful decision Sept. 25 in which she refused a condemned man's plea for a 20-minute extension beyond the court's usual 5 p.m. closing. The man, convicted killer Michael Richard, was executed minutes later, despite indications that he had a strong basis for appeal.
Separately, lawyers across the state are seeking to have Judge Keller disciplined as a result of her decision to bar the courthouse door. One of the complaints filed with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct accurately states that she is a "source of scandal to the citizens of the state." It might add that she makes the nation's leading death penalty state look overeager to carry out its grim business.
While nothing can bring back the man who was executed, at least the actions taken can signify that justice is not going to be ignored by the legal community. A disciplinary action will warn future judges that they can't blithely ignore filings and let the terrible consequences fade away afterwards.
Here I am tempted to go all Woody on you and say what Judge Keller ought to face, but since I believe in our legal system I will just ask for it to act in her case.
(This post also at http://cabdrollery.blogspot.com )