Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lawmaker seeks to impeach Presiding Judge

Lon Burnam, a Democratic state legislator from Fort Worth, has introduced a bill calling for the impeachment of the Judge Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, for her actions regarding the execution of Michael Richard.

Mr. Richard was executed on September 25, 2007, when Judge Keller closed the court at 5:00 p.m. even though Mr. Richard's attorneys requested that the court remain open for 20 minutes in order to file his appeal.
"It's one thing for a banker to close shop at 5 o'clock sharp. But a public official who stands between a human being and the death chamber must be held to a higher standard." - State Rep. Lon Burnam
The extra time was needed due to computer problems and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a Kentucky case that questioned the constitutionality of execution by lethal injection.

Judge Keller indicated that she was just honoring a long-standing tradition of closing the court at 5:00 p.m.  Seems more like she was honoring a long-standing tradition of state-sponsored murder.

As my colleague Mark Bennett, author of Defending People, pointed out during a dedication ceremony for the Bill of Rights display at the Harris County Juvenile (In)justice Center, there is nothing in the Declaration of Indpedence, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights about judicial economy or moving criminal dockets along. 

If our elected officials are so callous that closing an office on time is more important that the rights of a condemned citizen, we are in serious trouble.

No comments: