It is too late for rule of law to apply to Michael Wayne Richard. But it must be applied to Keller, whose deformed ethical compass makes her unfit to judge. If a new state probe of her conduct fails to prompt her removal, the Legislature should impeach her.
More than a year after her cavalier actions shocked the country, Keller has finally been called to account for her actions. Last Thursday, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct announced judicial proceedings against her, charging “willful or persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary.”
Also last week, State Rep. Lon Burnam submitted a resolution to impeach Keller, citing “gross neglect of duty” and “willful disregard for human life.”
All three descriptions are accurate. On any given execution day, Texas courthouses are active places. Because of the chance for last-minute appeals, courthouses don’t have a strict closing time, judges work late and judges often hear last-minute pleadings from home, the Dallas Observer notes.
After all, a human life is at stake.
On the day of Richard’s execution, there was even more happening. That morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to review the constitutionality of lethal injection — to which Richard was sentenced. This announcement created a de facto death penalty moratorium nationwide. But because the decision came late, Richard’s attorneys had to scramble, deciding how the news could be used in a workable appeal.
When their computer crashed that afternoon, however, the attorneys had the misfortune of calling a judge who cared not for legalities — but for punishment. Ignoring court procedure, Keller shut the door on them.
In retrospect, this might be expected of a judge who campaigned on the promise of being “pro-prosecution.” But the Texas justice system, which kills so many and has mistreated even more, cannot continue to bear that same label.
Removing Judge Sharon Keller will show the many watching this state that Texans don’t thirst for blood, but for justice.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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