Sharon Keller Reprimand Dismissed! Court of Criminal Appeals Chief Justice Gets Win From Special Court of Review. WOW.
This blog is dedicated to shedding light on the abuses and injustices of the Texas criminal justice system, and there’s plenty of media stories pertaining to that theme each week.
It seems almost redundant to sacrifice delving into a new story, just to return yet again to the Continuing Saga of Sharon Keller.
And yet, we must: how can we ignore the latest chapter in the trial of the chief justice of our state’s highest criminal court?
When last we visited the life and times of Chief Justice Keller, she had received a public reprimand from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct — the TCJC technically issued Justice Keller a “public warning.” (Read the TCJC’s Order in its entirety here.)
Not many were happy with this result. Heck. lots of folk wanted (and still want) Sharon Keller to be removed from office for her actions on the day that the State of Texas executed Michael Richard.
And, obviously Sharon Keller was not happy with this “public warning” – she appealed the decision of the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. Keller argued that the TCJC not only exceeded its authority but it also violated the Texas Constitution. Apparently, the Court of Review agreed.
According to the Special Court of Review, the TCJC only had three options, and issuing a “public warning” wasn’t one of them. Oops.
(The Court of review found that the TCJC could (1) dismiss the case outright; (2) issue a public censure; or (3) issue a recommendation for either (a) removal or (b) retirement. They viewed the public warning as distinctive different than any of these three alternatives. )
Did they give any explanation here for giving Justice Keller such a big win? Well, the court of review did expressly state that its ruling should not be considered as an opinion on the underlying case. They weren’t going there…except that they did.
In its ruling, the Court of Review noted that long ago, an appointed special master’s investigation into that underlying case found that the attorneys for Executed Man (Michael Richard) were “the bulk of fault for what occurred” — as they were found not to have taken enough time preparing his appeal in case the United States Supreme Court came down favorably for them (which it did, of course).
Defense Attorneys Blamed
So, reading between the lines … the defense attorneys are being blamed, not Chief Justice Keller, for Michael Richard’s loss of about six months of life (or more).
Is no one remembering that another Justice or two (Justice Cheryl Johnson, for example) was sitting there at the Court of Criminal Appeals, awaiting the after-hours filing by Richard? The court didn’t expect those attorneys to get the filing done before five.
Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle calls this ironic. Guess that’s one word for it.
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