Richard's lawyer, David Dow of Houston, said a lawyer on his staff told Abbott's office about the court of criminal appeal's actions at about 6 p.m., when Richard's death warrant took effect.
Dow said the assistant attorney general then gave Richard's lawyers six minutes to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court — or else Richard would be executed.
"They (Abbott's assistants) were being quite aggressively confrontational," Dow said.
...Former Gov. Mark White, who also once was the state's attorney general, and former Attorney General Jim Mattox have criticized Abbott for not halting the execution after Keller closed the clerk's office. Mattox said Abbott might lack legal authority for the action but the prison system would not act without his approval.
Abbott responded this week by saying, "It's up to the courts to make that determination. I don't have the legal authority to stop an execution. Only the governor and only the courts have that authority and we have to rely upon the courts to exercise that authority."
White said Abbott should have stopped the execution himself or asked Gov. Rick Perry to institute a 30-day stay. White said Keller also should have allowed Richard to file an appeal.
White said that as governor he always made sure he could stop an execution right up to the last minute.
"When there was an execution pending, I had an open line to the execution chamber and the attorney general was there so Texas would never look like we were ghoulish, uncaring," White said.
An 'egregious' breachThe governor can issue a single 30-day stay of execution on his own authority, White said.
White said even if the state ultimately executed Richard, he had a right to have his appeals heard because that creates a fundamental citizen trust in the court system.
"That court of criminal appeals, that attorney general and that governor failed to halt one of the most egregious breaches of equity in the courts that I've ever known," White said.
Strickland said Abbott's aides did everything appropriately in the Richard execution.
Strickland said Morgan contacted Dow at about 6 p.m. to say the death warrant was taking effect. Morgan wanted to know if there were going to be any additional appeals and learned then about the Supreme Court filing.
Strickland noted that Dow's appeal to the Supreme Court pointed out that Richard's request for a stay was based on the court taking up the Kentucky issue. He said the Supreme Court had enough information to stay the execution if it wanted.
"It wasn't until all courts answered these claims that the punishment was carried out," Strickland said.
Dow said the Supreme Court could have halted the execution, but he said there is no way to know whether Richard was turned down on the merits or because the Court of Criminal Appeals had not ruled on the motion first.
Dow said Abbott did have the authority to halt the execution knowing an appeal was going to be filed with the court of criminal appeals once the clerk's office reopened.