From the Austin American-Statesman
A Republican district court judge from San Antonio will preside over the trial of Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals who stands accused of violating her duty in a 2007 death penalty case.
The Texas Supreme Court today named Bexar County District Court Judge David Berchelmann Jr. as special master for Keller’s trial, to being Aug. 17 in Austin.
Berchelmann was the first Republican to serve on the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, when he was appointed by Gov. Bill Clements in 1989. At the time, he was a seven-year district court judge, and he returned to the Bexar County district court bench three years later.
“He is highly regarded by both the bench and the bar in Bexar County,” said Wallace Jefferson, chief justice of the Supreme Court.
“The court believes him to be fair and impartial, and he has a rather unique judicial pedigree. He was a member of the Court of Criminal Appeals back in the 1980s, and now he sits on a civil bench. So it’s not a case in which his decisions would routinely go to the Court of Criminal Appeals.”
Jefferson said he consulted with Berchelmann before the court’s decision.
“This is a high-profile case, and we wanted to make sure that for any judge appointed that there was nothing that would preclude them from taking the case on,” Jefferson said.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct in February accused Keller of acting improperly by closing her court to a late appeal by death row inmate Michael Richard in September 2007. Keller denies the charge and has promised to mount a vigorous defense at her trial, which will resemble a traditional civil court proceeding with witnesses, closing arguments and exhibits.