Texan judge on trial for misconduct over executionA prominent Texas judge went on trial for alleged professional misconduct professional misconduct,
n conduct inappropriate to the practice of health care.
professional misconduct Behavior by a professional that implies an intentional compromise of ethical standards. after refusing to hear a last-minute appeal from a condemned prisoner that came in after normal office hours office hours,
n.pl See business hours. .
In a courtroom filled with anti-death penalty activists, Sharon Keller, a Republican dubbed "Sharon Killer" for her tough stance on crime, faced a special hearing at the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct that could result in her removal from the bench of the state's highest criminal court.
The case dates back to September 25, 2007, when Keller instructed a staffer to close the court after 5:00 pm.
Earlier that morning, hours before convicted killer Michael Richard
Richard's attorneys sought to file an appeal to stay his execution, but were delayed by computer glitches.
At 4:45 pm, they called Keller to request a delay, but the judge's terse reply that "we close at 5:00 pm" meant their clients's last hopes of survival were extinguished and he was killed by lethal injection that same evening.
Keller's attorney, Chip Babcock, countered that "she did not, as the committee claims, prevent a late filing," in court statements cited by the San Antonio Express-News The San Antonio Express-News is the daily newspaper of San Antonio, Texas. It is ranked as the third-largest daily newspaper in the state of Texas in terms of circulation, and is one of the leading news sources of South Texas, with offices in Austin, Brownsville, Laredo, and .
"That does not mean there aren't after-hours filings," Babcock added, insisting his client was responding to administrative questions about the building's opening hours opening hours open npl → heures fpl d'ouverture
opening hours open npl → Öffnungszeiten pl and not about filing an appeal.
Richard's attorneys said Keller refused to keep the courthouse open, even though doing so is common practice in death penalty cases.
The lawyers' attempts to obtain an emergency stay from the Supreme Court were rejected because they had not first obtained a ruling on halting the execution from a lower court.
Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was on duty the evening of Richard's execution, denied that court general counsel Ed Marty had told her the convict's attorneys were running late.
"If I had known that they asked for time I would have granted it," she said.
Marty came to her office several minutes before closing "and told me nothing had come in" and never mentioned a call from Richard's lawyers, Johnson added, in statements cited by the Austin American-Statesman The Austin American-Statesman is the major daily newspaper for Austin, the capital city of Texas. It is an award-winning publication owned by Cox Enterprises and edited by Richard Oppel, who led his previous newspaper, the Charlotte Observer to multiple Pulitzers. .
Richard, who had been convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a woman 20 years earlier, was given a lethal injection and pronounced dead at 8:23 pm that evening.
He was the 26th person to be executed in Texas in 2007, but even in a state that accounted for around half of all executions in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. in 2008, Keller's apparent stonewalling stone·wall
v. stone·walled, stone·wall·ing, stone·walls
a. of the convict's appeal sparked outrage.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Keller had engaged in "willful or persistent conduct that cast public discredit on the judiciary" and multiple newspaper editorials condemned her actions.
Attorneys for both sides did not return calls on Monday.