New reporting from the Houston Chronicle’s R.G. Ratcliffe (“Judge in death case violated policies”) includes an admission from the unethical presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Sharon Keller, that she violated the unwritten rules of the court on the day she said “We close at 5” and refused to accept an appeal from a man set for execution that day.

The rules have since been written down to prevent a similar injustice, but the unwritten rules in effect on Sept 25 were that Keller should have referred the request from Michael Richard’s lawyers to keep the court open 20 minutes after 5 pm to the duty judge, but instead she decided on her own to close the court and refuse the appeal. The policy, which has since been written down, is that “all communications regarding the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned judge.”

Now that has admitted wrongdoing, there is no doubt that Sharon Keller should accept the demands on her to resign. More than 1,800 people have signed a judicial complaint against her with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Click here to watch an excellent video report of a protest against Keller on Nov 16 from FOX 7 News. We kept the court open late that day accepting letters from people urging Keller to resign.

Excerpt from Houston Chronicle:

In response to a public information request from the Houston Chronicle, Keller said in a letter that no written court procedures existed Sept. 25, the day of Richard’s execution. However, she said the new written rules reflected the court’s unwritten policies on that day.

Keller was not the judge assigned to handle Richard’s appeal when she decided to close the clerk’s office so that Richard’s lawyers could not file a late appeal.

Judge Cheryl Johnson was in charge of Richard’s case on the day of his execution, but did not learn of his lawyers’ attempts to file for a stay of execution until the day after his death.


In its public information request, the Chronicle asked for the state appeals court procedures for handling death penalty cases on the day of Richard’s execution.

“No written policies regarding those matters existed on that date (Sept. 25),” Keller wrote. “Subsequent to that date, the court reduced to writing the unwritten policies that did exist on that date.”

The written policy the court later adopted said the judge assigned to the case should stay on duty on the day of an execution until the execution occurs. The policy also said “all communications regarding the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned judge.”

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