During Presiding Judge Sharon Keller's tenure, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has been derided for seeing no harm when lawyers commit obvious errors. In its zeal to uphold convictions come what may, the court has been scolded by the U.S. Supreme Court for not following precedent.and
But for sheer myopia, it's hard to top Keller's refusal to keep the court open long enough to accept an emergency appeal from a Death Row inmate about to be executed.
Even Keller's fellow judges were dumbfounded by her rigidity.
Computer problems delayed printing of the materials, so the attorneys asked the appeals court to let them file 20 minutes after the regular 5 p.m. closing time. Keller refused.
She did it without consulting Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was assigned Richards' case and who told the Austin American-Statesman that she would have accepted a last-minute filing, given that it was a death penalty case.
Keller did it without consulting Judge Paul Womack, who told the Houston Chronicle that he stayed at the courthouse until 7 p.m. anticipating a last-minute filing, given the Supreme Court's action and the importance of the issue.
She did it even though courts often allow after-hours petitions under atypical circumstances. The Texas Supreme Court, which handles civil appeals, has stayed open for urgent filings in parental notification cases, a spokesman said.