Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Press Release: Lawmaker Seeks Impeachment of State Judge

For Immediate Release

Lawmaker Seeks Impeachment of State Judge

(Austin, TX) – A Fort Worth area Rep. Lon Burnam filed a resolution to begin the impeachment process against Judge Sharron Keller, the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The resolution accuses Judge Keller of "neglect of duty" for declining to keep her office open past 5 pm to receive the final pleadings of condemned inmate, Michael Richard, on September 25, 2007.

Mr. Richards was executed that night by lethal injection. His lawyers claim that because of his low mental acuity, his execution was "cruel and unusual" based on standards set by the United States Supreme Court.

Today's filing is the latest in a series of attempts to remove Judge Keller from the bench, including letters to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct from lawmakers, attorneys and community activist calling for her removal. To date the Commission has taken no actions.

"It's one thing for a banker to close shop at five o'clock sharp," said Rep. Lon Burnam, the principal author of the resolution. "But a public official who stands between a human being and the death chamber must be held to a higher standard."

If passed the resolution calls on the House of Representatives to form a committee to investigate the Judge for "gross neglect of duty and willing disregard for human life." If the House finds cause for impeachment, a trial would then be held in the State Senate.

The State of Texas has not impeached a state judge since the 1970's when a series of judicial scandals led to ethics reforms.

On the day of the execution, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would rule on a case claiming the use of lethal injection unconstitutional. The announcement resulted in a de facto nationwide moratorium on execution as states waited to hear the high court's ruling. Mr. Richards was the last person executed before the moratorium.


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