Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daily Texan coverage of Sharon Keller protest

The Daily Texan has a good article about last night's press conference at Sharon Keller's home. Even though the lights inside her home were on, she didn't come out. Surprisingly this time she didn't call DPS, as she did last year over the website
Protest hits home for Texas judge who refused to hear late appeal

By Amanda DeBard

Austin anti-death penalty activist Alison Dieter protests outside of the home of Judge Sharon Keller on Tuesday evening.
Media Credit: Bryant Haertlein

Austin anti-death penalty activist Alison Dieter protests outside of the home of Judge Sharon Keller on Tuesday evening.

A group of activists opposing the death penalty rallied outside Judge Sharon Keller's home in North Austin Tuesday night.

Keller presides over the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and refused to accept a late death penalty appeal on Sept. 25, which resulted in Michael Richard's execution.

"We came to where we think she can hear us," said Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network, an organization in opposition of the death penalty.

Keller told attorneys filing Richard's appeal that the office closes at 5 p.m. and would not grant them the 20 extra minutes they requested due to computer printer malfunctions. There was another attorney assigned to handle late appeals that night, who Keller did not consult with prior to her decision.

Cobb said the protest occurred at Keller's house because most members of his organization work until 5 p.m. when the Court of Criminal Appeals office would be closed.

Keller did not come out of her house at any point during the protest and did not respond to knocks on her front door.

In light of Richard's execution, Cobb said he thinks the trust in and integrity of the criminal justice system has been lost.

"We're asking for her to be removed from office to restore the integrity of the system," he said. "If there is no trust in the system, then the whole thing breaks down."

About 1,200 public members have signed the judicial complaint against Keller, which will be delivered to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct Nov. 6. The complaint is sponsored by the Texas Moratorium Network.

Members of the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty criticized Keller's actions in the courtroom in addition to her actions on the night in question.

In the past, Keller has allowed attorneys to sleep through capital murder trials, said Kathleen Feyh, a UT graduate student and member of the organization, referencing a capital murder trial for Calvin Burdine, whose lawyer, Joe Cannon, slept through parts of his client's trial.

"We haven't seen her treat cases with any passion, and she does not view defendants as human," she said.

Feyh said she believes the Richard case was the straw that broke the camel's back but said she wishes Keller's actions had come much sooner. After Richard's execution, no other Texas inmates have been executed.

"Any halt to executions is a good step and a step in the right direction," Feyh said.

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