David Dow, an attorney in the case who runs the Texas Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law Center, called her statement "outrageous," noting that lawyers had to decide legal strategy and then craft a filing about why the case before the U.S. Supreme Court applied to Richard's arguments.
The reason behind the request for the delay was a severe computer problem, Dow said. He said he told the court clerk about the problem. Keller said the lawyers didn't give a reason.
Dow also said the court will not accept a filing by e-mail. If it did, he said, lawyers could have met the 5 p.m. deadline once they beat their computer problem, because printing the filing took extra time. The lawyers needed about another 20 minutes.
Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said he was thinking about filing a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct about Keller.
"When I saw that, I think I would just describe my reaction as 'stunningly unconscionable,' " Harrington said of her refusal. "There has to be some kind of accountability for this."
Seana Willing, executive director of the Texas commission, said she isn't sure Keller could be sanctioned, were a complaint to be filed, because she isn't aware of anything in the Code of Judicial Conduct that would cover her decision to close the clerk's office while a death penalty case was pending. She indicated she looked through the code after learning of the dispute but could find "nothing specific" dealing with it.
Keller, who was re-elected last year to a six-year term, and Cochran also said they couldn't think of a provision that Keller's action would violate. Judge Mike Keasler, noting he teaches judicial ethics, said he knows of no violation related to such an administrative action by the court's presiding judge.
Harrington said, "I think you'd take the totality of it and have to make some sort of argument this was a gross miscarriage of justice."
Lawyers said that without a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Richard's appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court couldn't consider it. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed another man's execution the same week, after his appeal was denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals.