Texas judge faces trial regarding death penalty
Texas: Chief justice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Sharon Keller, is going before a court in San Antonio to face charges that she willfully and persistently failed to follow state protocol for the last-minute appeal of death row inmates.
On September 25, 2007, Keller declined to hear a plea from Michael Richard for a 20-minute extension to submit a death penalty appeal beyond the 5:00 p.m. closing time of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Richard was executed later that night.
Earlier on September 25, the U.S. Supreme Court had accepted Baze v. Rees, a Kentucky case in which two death row inmates challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution.
Keller stated that the court's clerk office would close at 5pm, which is required by state law. Judge Keller later stated that it has long been precedent in Texas for late appeals to be hand-delivered to the court or a judge, and not required to be filed with the clerk. Also, the inmate's attorney has been questioned about why he failed to file a handwritten motion for stay of execution before or after 5pm. Had he filed the motion, even if rejected, he would have been able to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that the state appeals process had been exhausted.
After these events, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals changed its rules to allow for email submissions in death penalty cases and other emergency situations. On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court rejected the challenge in the Baze case, upholding Kentucky's method of execution.