Newspaper editorial boards and columnists have begun to comment on Sharon Keller’s refusal to accept a late appeal by Michael Richard. Meanwhile, Texas Moratorium Network and the Texas Civil Rights Project are two organizations expected to file complaints against Keller with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“Keller proves how unjust (or at the very least how insensitive) the highest criminal court in the state can be.
And once again, Lady Justice ought to be hiding her head in shame in the Lone Star State.
“That callous disregard shocked the world, and the international outcry may have prompted Keller’s court to temporarily halt Chi’s execution. Texas was slow to recognize that executions should be banned while the high court determines whether lethal injections violate the Eighth Amendment’s cruel-and-unusual language.
Better late than not at all. If Texas continues to execute condemned prisoners on the eve of the Supreme Court decision, it will incur the scorn of the civilized world. After the offense of Richard’s death, Texas needs to adhere to expected standards of conduct and prohibit all executions until the Supreme Court rules.
Sharon Keller, Texas’ top judge on criminal matters, may have shocked much of the nation last week when she ordered a clerk not to stay open an extra 20 minutes to accept a last-minute appeal for a man on death row.
But she didn’t shock those who know her.
After all, this is the same judge who nine years ago responded to DNA evidence indicating the innocence of a man who had been in prison for years on a rape charge by writing that he may have used a condom.
The Dallas Morning News, in keeping with their recent heightened attention to death penalty issues, was the first newspaper editorial board to address the issue, saying on Oct 3:
That is unconscionable.
You might not lose sleep over the fact that the court wouldn’t stay open for 20 minutes to help a convicted rapist-murderer’s attempt to evade the needle a bit longer. You should think again.
When the state takes the life of a condemned criminal, it must do so with a sense of sobriety commensurate with its grave responsibility. Hastening the death of a man, even a bad one, because office personnel couldn’t be bothered to bend bureaucratic procedure was a breathtakingly petty act and evinced a relish for death that makes the blood of decent people run cold.