Thursday, July 28, 2011

Attacking their own

The Republican primary for Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Affirms Appeals should be a most interesting affair as a sitting judge, Lawrence Meyers, challenges the incumbent, Sharon Killer Keller.

Judge Meyers was elected to the highest criminal court in the state in 1992, after serving on the Fort Worth Court of Appeals from 1989-1992. Prior to serving on the appellate bench, Judge Meyers practiced civil, criminal and appellate law in Fort Worth. Before moving to Fort Worth in 1975, Judge Meyers was a prosecutor in Kansas.

Judge Meyers authored the Court's opinion in Ex parte Elizondo, 947 SW2d 202 (Tex.Crim.App.2002) in which the court held that the Due Process Clause of the US Constitution "forbids, not just the execution, but the incarceration as well of an innocent person." Judge Killer Keller, on the other hand, joined in the dissent, on the grounds that reopening cases to determine whether the defendant was, in fact, innocent, threatened the "finality" of jury verdicts. Heaven forbid!

Judge Killer Keller is best known for ignoring protocol and closing the court to prevent Michael Richard's attorneys from filing a last minute appeal on the afternoon of his scheduled execution. Judge Killer Keller was found to have violated the rules of the court and was issued a public warning for her actions. The decision was later overturned as the Commission on Judicial Conduct was not authorized to issue a public warning. Judge Killer Keller is also known as Judge No as she is consistently dissenting from court opinions recognizing that the Bill of Rights contains protections for criminal defendants.

The mere fact that a fellow member of the CCA is challenging the presiding judge is telling. The fact that both judges are Republicans should make it clear that many in the GOP have grown weary of Judge Killer Keller's act. Through her actions in the Michael Richard affair, the Presiding Judge brought disdain and ridicule to the Court.

This one race might be enough to encourage Democrats to cross over and vote in the Republican primary next spring to oust Judge Killer Keller from the bench.

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