Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Complaints Filed Against Judge Sharon Keller

The Associated Press is reporting that new complaints has been filed against Judge Sharon Keller. Texans for Public Justice filed complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission and Travis County attorney's office. She will be automatically suspended if the Travis County Attorney charges her with a crime, or if she is impeached by the Texas House.

AUSTIN, Texas — A liberal watchdog group filed ethics and criminal complaints Tuesday against Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller after reports that she did not disclose nearly $2 million in real estate holdings.

Texans for Public Justice filed the complaints in Austin against Keller, a Republican, with the Texas Ethics Commission and Travis County attorney's office.

Keller is already facing misconduct charges from the state Judicial Conduct Commission for failing to keep her office open late the night Michael Wayne Richard was executed. His lawyers have said that prevented them from filing an appeal. Keller has said that attorneys for Richard, who raped and murdered a woman in 1986, had other options to appeal.

The latest complaints come after The Dallas Morning News reported that Keller's routine annual financial disclosures did not include the property.

Keller's attorney, Chip Babcock, did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Although seperate from the misconduct charge, Keller's financial disclosure are relevant in that case. She has argued that the misconduct charges violate her constitutional right to counsel because the state refuses to allow Babcock to represent her at taxpayer expense and paying for her defense herself would be financially ruinous.

Babcock has said he's willing to represent Keller for almost nothing, but that the ethics commission has not clarified whether that was an ethics violation.

A sworn statement Keller filed with the Texas Ethics Commission last year did not disclose her ownership interest in seven residential and commercial properties in Dallas and Tarrant counties. The newspaper said those properties are valued at roughly $1.9 million.

Among Keller's unlisted properties are two Dallas homes valued together at just over $1 million. Keller is listed as sole owner under Sharon Batjer, her married name. She divorced in 1982. Another omission is commercial land next to Keller's Drive-In, a landmark Dallas hamburger restaurant operated since 1965 by the judge's father, Jack.

Keller's ethics commission filing listed income of more than $275,000, including her annual salary of $152,500. County tax records valued properties she did claim, including her Austin home, at roughly $1 million.

Failing to file comply with personal financial disclosure laws can bring fines up to $10,000. County Attorney David Escamilla could also seek Class B misdemeanor charges that carry up to six months in jail and $2,000 in fines.

Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDoncal said Keller is hiding her assets while asking taxpayers to pay her legal bills.

"Unlike many of the defendants who have appeared before her, Keller can afford to hire a top-notch attorney," McDonald said.

Keller has been on the court since 1994.

The Onion: DNA Evidence Frees Black Man

DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack

Monday, March 30, 2009

Burnam Seeking a Hearing on Impeachment of Keller: Call Chair Todd Hunter to Urge Him to Hold a Hearing

Please call the Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and urge him to hold a hearing on Lon Burnam's resolution (HR 480) to create a committee to determine if Sharon Keller should be impeached. 512-463-0672. Email Hunter on his website form.

Rep Todd Hunter
Capitol Address
Room E2.808, Capitol Extension
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 463-0672

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Burnam spoke with Hunter on Monday about holding a hearing. Now, Hunter should hear from us. Impeach Sharon Keller

From the Star-Telegram:
News that Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller has been seeking state legal aid while failing to disclose nearly $2 million in real estate holdings creates an even greater need for the Legislature to hold impeachment hearings, state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, said Monday.

Keller has said that it would be "financially ruinous" to pay lawyers to fight misconduct charges that could get her removed from the bench.

A sworn statement Keller filed with the Texas Ethics Commission last year did not abide by legal requirements that she disclose her ownership interest in seven residential and commercial properties in Dallas and Tarrant counties, The Dallas Morning News reported Monday.

The newspaper said those properties are valued at roughly $1.9 million.

Burnam filed a resolution in February to begin impeachment proceedings based on Keller’s refusal to keep her office open after hours to allow a last-minute appeal from a Death Row inmate who was executed several hours later.

"The nature of those charges means, if anything, we may have to amend the resolution," Burnam said.

Burnam’s resolution has been referred to the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Burnam said he spoke Monday with the committee chairman, Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, about the need to hold a hearing on his resolution immediately. A call to Hunter was not returned Monday.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct is also planning trial-like proceedings against Keller. Burnam said there is not widespread confidence in the commission’s ability to address the charges against Keller quickly or fairly.

"I think those legal proceedings were a charade to stretch her out through her re-election," Burnam said. "I think they’re going to slap her on the wrist, and she needs to leave office."

Among Keller’s unlisted properties are two Dallas homes valued together at just over $1 million. Keller is listed as sole owner under Sharon Batjer, her married name. She divorced in 1982. Another omission is commercial land next to Keller’s Drive-In, a landmark Dallas hamburger restaurant operated since 1965 by the judge’s father, Jack.

Keller’s ethics commission filing listed income of more than $275,000, including her annual salary of $152,500. County tax records valued properties she did claim, including her Austin home, at roughly $1 million. Keller’s attorney, Chip Babcock, did not return a call Monday.

Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice, the Austin-based group that monitors officeholder finances, decried Keller’s omissions as an "extremely outrageous" betrayal of the public trust.

Keller, a Republican who has been on the court since 1994, filed a 12-page response last week to the charges. She faulted the executed inmate’s attorneys for not finding other means for after-hours appeals. She said they could have tried to contact the other eight judges on the bench or the court’s general counsel.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dutton's Moratorium Bill on agenda for Committee Hearing next Thursday, April 2

Rep Dutton's moratorium bill (HB 913) is on the agenda for next Thursday, April 2, in the Subcommittee on Capital Punishment. We need to make an effort for this bill. If at all possible, people should try to drop to the hearing and sign a form in favor of this bill, which would actually stop executions for two years and create a death penalty study commission. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the form in favor and then leave, but you have to turn in the form in person.

Also contact the capital punishment subcommittee members and tell them you support HB 913.

Please forward this message.

Members of the Subcommittee on Capital Punishment

Robert Miklos, Chair of Subcommittee on Capital Punishment
District 101 (Dallas County-part)
Email: http://tinyurl.com/caazxo
Phone: 512-463-0464; FAX: 512-463-9295

Wayne Christian (Vice Chair), District 09 (Shelby, Nacogdoches, San Augustine, Sabine, Jasper Counties)
Email: http://tinyurl.com/d55lo6
Phone: 512-463-0556; FAX: 512-463-5896

Joseph Moody, District 78 (El Paso County-part)
Email: http://tinyurl.com/dc5bgh
Phone: 512-463-0728; FAX: 512-463-0397

Pete Gallego
Email: http://tinyurl.com/bymedd
Phone: 512-463-0566; FAX: 512-263-9408

Terri Hodge
Email: http://tinyurl.com/d4rd8d
Phone: (512) 463-0586 Fax: (512) 463-8147



Criminal Jurisprudenc:

Capital Punishment

8:00 AM, Thursday, April 02, 2009

PLACE: E2.016

CHAIR: Rep. Robert Miklos

HB 913
Dutton | et al.
Relating to the creation of a commission to study capital punishment in Texas and to a moratorium on executions.

HB 916

Relating to standards for judicial review of certain writs of habeas corpus in capital cases.

HB 938
Relating to the admissibility of certain confessions in capital cases.

Kids Against the Death Penalty Named 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year

Kids Against the Death Penalty has won the 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year award given by Students Against the Death Penalty and Texas Students Against the Death Penalty. The award was announced and presented to KADP at the Texas Capitol on March 24 by Hooman Hedayati, president of Students Against the Death Penalty and Jason Kyriakides, board member of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

The award recognizes the hundreds of hours of activism performed by Kids Against the Death Penalty in the last year educating the public about the injustice of the death penalty. The hard work and passionate commitment of members of Kids Against the Death Penalty has greatly benefited the national movement to abolish the death penalty. Several members of KADP are relatives of Jeff Wood, who is on Texas death row convicted under the Law of Parties even though he did not kill anyone.

Scott Cobb of Texas Moratorium Network, one of the many people who nominated Kids Against the Death Penalty for the award said, "Martin Luther King, Jr wrote in a letter from a Birmingham Jail that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'. That sense of injustice was what compelled Dr King to carry the gospel of freedom beyond his own home town. I have personally witnessed how Kids Against the Death Penalty have brought their message of justice beyond their own home town to cities throughout Texas. They have marched for miles along Texas streets holding anti-death penalty signs, through neighborhoods in Houston and down Congress Avenue in Austin to the State Capitol. They have stood vigil many times at the Texas Capitol when Texas has executed someone. They have visited the home of Texas Governor Rick Perry and pressed for justice. They lobbied members of the Texas Legislature on Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty March 24, 2009. Carissa Bywater of KADP testified to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Subcommittee on Capital Punishment on March 19. (The video of Carissa's testimony is viewable here from the Texas House website, click forward to minute 57 and 50 seconds.) It is also now on YouTube. KADP has courageously spoken out on an issue in which relatively few other people in Texas, whether adults or children, have found the time or the courage to speak out about. By doing so, they are following in the footsteps of other children in America’s past who have stood up for human rights".

"Children and teenagers played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. Barbara Johns was 16 in 1951 when she started a campaign for equal treatment at her school in Virginia. Her case became part of the landmark Brown v Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled that school segregation violated the Constitution of the United States. In 1963, more than a thousand children skipped their classes and marched in downtown Birmingham for equal schools. Many of them were arrested. Because of those kids’ actions during the civil rights movement, we live in a country today where candidates for president are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their platforms", said Cobb.

"KADP has already inspired kids in other states to join the anti-death penalty movement. Because of KADP's hard work against the death penalty, both Texas and the U.S. have moved closer to the day when we live in a society where the state does not kill in order to teach the lesson that killing is wrong", said Hooman Hedayati. KADP members received commemorative medals and $100 to be used in their anti-death penalty work.

Also Gislaine Williams of Rice for Peace (Rice University) and Ashley Kincaid (University of Indiana) each received a Certificate of Achievement by Students Against the Death Penalty.

2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year

Been – Founder and President of KADP
Nick Been – 1st Vice President
Nathan Been -2nd Vice President
Carissa Bywater – Secretary and Committee Chair
Paige Wood – Board Member
Cory Bywater - Board Member
Deanna Nickell - Board Member
Tanner Tucker – Board member

Members of KADP holding their awards for 2009 Youth Abolitionists of the Year.

Front row, Left to right:
Carissa Bywater 14, Gavin Been 12
Back Row, Left to right: Deanna Nickell 13, Nathan Been 14, Nick Been 13, Cory Bywater 11, and Tanner Tucker 12

Not Pictured: Paige Wood 15

Below, members of KADP after receiving their award at the Texas capitol.

From Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty - March 24, 2009

Carissa Bywater of KADP Testfying at a Committee Hearing at the Texas Capitol on the Law of Parties.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Text of Sharon "Killer" Keller's Response to Charges of Misconduct and Incompetence

Scott Cobb has uploaded the text of Sharon "Killer" Keller's response to Charges of Misconduct and Incompetence online.
Judge Keller Answer

Rick Casey: Let’s give Judge Keller a free lawyer

The following is a great column by Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle about Sharon Keller's request for the State of Texas to pay her legal fees.

Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, says the State of Texas is violating her constitutional rights.

We are not paying for an attorney to defend her against charges by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Commission’s charges involve a controversy in which she allegedly rebuffed attempts by lawyers for a condemned man to file a last-minute appeal based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier on the day of his execution.

Keller faces the equivalent of a trial that could result in her removal from the bench.

In a response filed Tuesday, Keller says the charges “are unconstitutional because (Keller) has been denied the right to counsel by the Texas and United States Constitution.”

The response, prepared by her attorney Charles L. Babcock, cites neither the provisions in the constitutions nor in case law supporting such an interpretation, but this taxpayer would be willing to provide an attorney for her.

After all, we provide attorneys for accused criminals.

True, we don’t hire lawyers for accused criminals who make $152,500 a year, as Judge Keller does.

And we provide lawyers only for indigents in danger of losing their freedom or their lives, not simply their jobs like Judge Keller.

And we don’t allow indigent defendants to choose their own free lawyers, particularly the highly regarded likes of Mr. Babcock.

A ruinous legal bill

Keller wants the taxpayers to pick up the “usual and customary fees” of Babcock’s firm, despite the fact that, according to the filing prepared by Babcock, hiring him is to “risk a financially ruinous legal bill to defend against these charges which are without merit.”

The judge should know better, especially in these tough times, than to ask us taxpayers to agree to a lawyer whose usual and customary fees can lead to a ruinous legal bill. However, I personally would be willing to chip in for the kind of lawyers whom Keller has found acceptable for people whose lives were at stake. Lawyers like:

• Robert McGlohon, who was appointed by Keller’s court to represent a death row inmate shortly after the Texas Legislature in 1995 passed a law requiring for the first time that indigent condemned men and women be provided tax-paid attorneys for the automatic habeas corpus appeal.

McGlohon had been a lawyer less than three years, had never even assisted on a death penalty case, and was suffering serious health problems. The appeal he filed was so inadequate that it didn’t raise any issues that are required in habeas filings. McGlohon, apparently aware of his failings, didn’t even file a bill on the case.

When later lawyers filed a competent habeas appeal, Keller joined in the majority in ruling it improper because a defendant got only one shot at the target.

In a dissent, then-Judge Morris Overstreet called the decision “a farce and travesty,” and a federal judge called it “a cynical and reprehensible attempt to expedite petitioner’s execution at the expense of all semblance of fairness and integrity.”

• David K. Chapman, who was also appointed by Keller’s court and also was inexperienced in death penalty cases. The State Bar had suspended him twice before the appointment and once shortly after, but probated the suspensions. He was bipolar and admitted it affected his performance. Among other things, Chapman forfeited his client’s right to take the case into federal court by missing a deadline.

Three fellow judges found the attorney to have been incompetent, but Keller, in the majority, wrote that he must be competent only at the time he was appointed, and the fact the bar gave him probation showed it “still found counsel to be competent to practice law.”

• Any lawyer with serious narcolepsy. Keller has joined in opinions ruling that a sleeping defense lawyer is not necessarily ineffective, including an opinion that suggested it may be a strategy to win sympathy from the jury.

It didn’t work for those late defendants, but maybe it would for Keller.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Hampshire House Passes Crime Victims Equality Act

Today the NH House became the first legislative body in the country pass a crime victims equality act to prohibit discrimination against family members of murder victims who oppose the death penalty. By a 213-114 margin HB 370, "An act relative to the treatment of victims of crime", was passed by a 213-114 margin. That bill, based upon model legislation recommended in the Dignity Denied Report, amends New Hampshire's Crime Victims Bill of Rights by adding this new right to crime victims:

"The right to all federal and state constitutional rights guaranteed to all victims of crime on an equal basis, and notwithstanding the provisions of any laws on capital punishment, the right not to be discriminated against or have their rights as a victim denied, diminished, expanded, or enhanced on the basis of the victim’s support for, opposition to, or neutrality on the death penalty."

The bill is a tribute to Lorilei Guilliry, Gus and Audrey Lamm, Rusty Yates, Felicia Floyd and Chris Kellet, SuZann Bozler, Ron Carlson, Johnny Carter, Jeannette Popp and others who were denied rights they were entitled to as crime victims because of their opposition to the death penalty.

Rep. Robert "Renny" Cushing
NH House of Representatives

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Repeal Bill Passes NH House

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the death penalty today. The vote was 193-174. The House also passed a bill to establish a death penalty study commission.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Texas Can Help End the Death Penalty


I'm writing to you today because of an issue that is very important to me, and may be to you as well. I learned this morning that Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis) will be introducing a bill in the Senate subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights to abolish the death penalty in the United States . The bill will be called the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2009 and is probably much like the bill of the same name he introduced in 2007. However, now the time is ripe for Texans who oppose capital punishment to speak up, since our senator, John Cornyn, sits on the same subcommittee and has the power of disapproval and destruction of the bill.

I may not know if you are for or against the death penalty - if you fully support it, you may want to just delete this email - but if you have any doubts about the efficacy of the punishment on deterring crime, or the racial bias, or even that an imperfect judicial system cannot be fully responsible for the lives of citizens, then I urge you to read Amnesty International's page on the death penalty, which can be found here.

If you are opposed to this very final and very cruel form of punishment, I ask that you, as a Texan, write to Senator Cornyn and express your wish that he support Senator Fiengold's bill. You can find a contact form to his office here. In full disclosure, I have included the letter I wrote this morning; please feel free to use it as a template for your own, or write freely about your concerns. The limit on the contact form is 10,000 characters.

Thanks for hearing me out, and please pass this email along to anyone who opposes capital punishment.


Leah Manners

My letter to Sen. Cornyn:

Dear Senator Cornyn,

As a resident of the state you represent, I write to you today to ask you to support Senator Russ Feingold's proposal to end the death penalty in the United States in the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights on which you serve.

The decision by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to end capital punishment in his state makes this an ideal time to take a stance against this arbitrary, inhumane, and irresponsible form of punishment. Additionally, the recent "'crazy' but 'sane'" ruling on the case of Andre Thomas is an absolute embarrassment to Texans and our judicial system and should be used as an example of an abuse of the punishment. The fact that the Unites States remains the only first world nation to continue this horrid practice only adds to our collective shame.

Texas has already freed more than nine prisoners from death row because they were determined to be innocent after their sentencing. How many innocents has it killed?

I urge you now to take a stand against this absolutely irresponsible system of punishment, if only because people can make mistakes, including people in our judiciary system and those mistakes shouldn't be irreversible. Please do your part to push the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2009 through your subcommittee and have it heard on the Senate floor.

Constituent Leah Manners

Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol

Tuesday March 24, 2009
Texas State Capitol
11th and Congress
Austin, Texas

Register for Lobby Day!

People from across Texas are coming to Austin on Tuesday, March 24, for a Death Penalty Reform Lobby Day to speak with legislators about the injustice of the Texas death penalty system. Issues to be discussed include the risk of executing an innocent person (HB788), the need for a moratorium on executions (HB 913, HJR 24), abolition of the death penalty (HB 297, HB 682), the Law of Parties (HB 304, HB 2267), and impeaching Sharon Keller (HR 480).

Please register to let us know you are interested in coming to Lobby Day on March 24. Registration is not mandatory, but it will help us make plans if we know how many people to expect. You can also just show up at any of the day's events.

The Lobby Day will include a press conference at 1 PM and a rally on the South Steps of the Capitol at 5:30. Many family members of people currently and formerly on death row plan to participate in Lobby Day events.

Advocating an end to death sentences under the Law of Parties is the primary focus of the Lobby Day. In 2007, the death sentence of Kenneth Foster was commuted to life by Governor Perry. Foster had been sentenced to death under the Law of Parties even though he never killed anyone. Family members of Kenneth Foster, Jeff Wood and others convicted under the Law of Parties will meet with members of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and other legislators to urge them to approve HB 2267 and HB 304, both of which would end the death penalty under the Law of Parties.

A group of citizen lobbyists will also meet with members of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence to urge them to approve HR 480, which would create a House select committee to determine if Sharon Keller should be impeached. Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has until March 24 to send her response to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding charges that she violated her judicial duties by declining to accept an after-hours appeal from a death row inmate in 2007.

Jeanette Popp, whose daughter was murdered in Austin in 1988, will participate in Lobby Day. Two innocent men were convicted of the murder of Ms. Popp’s daughter. Ms Popp’s new book, entitled “Mortal Justice”, was published on March 1, 2009. Her book tells the story of her daughter’s murder, the wrongful convictions of two innocent men, their exonerations, and the eventual trial and conviction of the real killer. Ms Popp visited the real killer in jail prior to his trial and told him that she did not want him to receive a death sentence. He was sentenced to life.

The death penalty was abolished by New Mexico just last week.

Lobby Day Schedule

10 AM – Noon: Lobbying Training Workshop Location:
University of Texas at Austin Sanchez Building (College of Education) in the Cissy McDaniel Parker Dean's Conference Room. This is a short 7-8 minute walk from the capitol. Google map of route from capitol to training location.

1 PM: Press Conference in the House Speaker's Committee Room 2W.6 in the Capitol

2 – 5 PM: Group lobbying visits to legislative offices

5:30 PM: Rally on the South Steps of the Capitol

Sponsored by: Sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin Chapter, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas CURE, the Student Prison Caucus, the Eye & Tooth Project: Forum Theatre on the Death Penalty, Kids Against the Death Penalty, People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER) and the Friends Meeting of Austin.

Flyer for Lobby Day Against the Death Penalty March 24 Austin Texas

In addition to registering by clicking above, you can subscribe for text message updates on Lobby Day below

Sponsored by Texas Moratorium Network, Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Campaign to End the Death Penalty - Austin Chapter, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Students Against the Death Penalty and the Student Prison Caucus. (If your organization would like to participate or be one of the Lobby Day sponsors, contact us at 512 961 6389 or by email to admin@texasmoratorium.org)

Please call the following members of the subcommittee on Capital Punishment and say that you want the committee to approve HB 2267, the Law of Parties bill.

Members of the Subcommittee on Capital Punishment

Robert Miklos, Chair of Subcommittee on Capital Punishment
District 101 (Dallas County-part)
Email for for Miklos
Phone: 512-463-0464; FAX: 512-463-9295

Wayne Christian, District 09 (Shelby, Nacogdoches, San Augustine, Sabine, Jasper Counties)
Email for for Christian
Phone: 512-463-0556; FAX: 512-463-5896

Joseph Moody, District 78 (El Paso County-part)
Email for for Moody
Phone: 512-463-0728; FAX: 512-463-0397

Pete Gallego
Email for for Gallego
Phone: 512-463-0566; FAX: 512-263-9408

Terri Hodge (Sponsor of Law of Parties bill, so no need to contact her)

US Senator Russ Feingold reintroduces bill to abolish federal death penalty

More on S.650 is here:

The text of S.650 will be at:

- - - - -

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Feingold's Longtime Effort Comes as New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty

Washington, D.C. - As momentum builds in states to abolish the death penalty,
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold reintroduced legislation today to abolish the death
penalty at the federal level. Feingold's Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act
of 2009 would put an immediate halt to federal executions and forbid the use
of the death penalty as a sentence for violations of federal law. The use of
the death penalty has been questioned by a range of prominent voices across
the country, recently repealed in New Mexico and New Jersey, and abolished by
123 countries around the world. Feingold's bill would stop executions on the
federal level, which are part of a death penalty system that has proven to be
ineffective, wrought with racial disparities, and alarmingly costly.

"I oppose the death penalty because it is inconsistent with basic American
principles of justice, liberty and equality," Feingold said. "Governor Bill
Richardson and the New Mexico legislature's action to abolish the death
penalty in that stateadds to the growing momentum behind ending the death
penalty in this country. It is truly unfortunate that we are in a shrinking
minority of countries that continue to allow state-sponsored executions."

Feingold is not alone in his opposition to the death penalty. A range of
prominent voices have questioned the system in recent years, including former
FBI Director William Sessions, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor, law enforcement officials and many others across the political
spectrum. In 2007, only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan executed more
people than the United States.

In 2007, Feingold chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee, Constitution
Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the federal death penalty that
highlighted the lack of transparency at the Department of Justice in the
decision-making process about the death penalty and continuing problems of
racial disparities in the federal system. Also in 2007, the American Bar
Association called for a nationwide moratorium on capital punishment based on
its detailed study of state death penalty systems, which found racial
disparities, convictions based on bad evidence, grossly inadequate indigent
defense systems, and a host of other problems with the implementation of
capital punishment in this country.

Jeff Wood loses federal appeal

There are two bills pending in the Texas Legislature that would prevent prosectors from seeking the death penalty for people who do not kill but are convicted under the Law of Parties.of Austin American Statesman reports:
A Texas death row inmate who came within hours of being executed last summer has lost an appeal in federal court, where his lawyers argued that he is too mentally ill to be put to death.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, rejected the appeal from Jeffery Wood, 35, who received the death penalty for the January 1996 slaying of Kriss Keeran at a convenience store in Kerrville.

Evidence showed that Wood waited in a car outside the convenience store while his roommate, Daniel Reneau, fatally shot 31-year-old Keeran in the face with a .22-caliber pistol.

Both men then robbed the store, taking more than $11,000 in cash and checks.

Reneau was executed in 2002.

Wood's execution was scheduled for August, but the lethal injection was delayed by a federal judge, who ruled that Wood could be tested to determine whether he is mentally competent to understand why he should be executed.

In the appeal to the New Orleans-based court, Wood's lawyers said they needed a second expert, a neuropsychologist, to examine Wood. He had already been examined by a forensic psychologist.

"Mr. Wood lacks a rational understanding of his death sentence and of the reasons for his imminent execution," Wood's attorney Scott Sullivan said in the motion filed last week.

The defense team also wanted the court to approve the hiring of an additional investigator and keep the expenses and results confidential.

Prosecutors argued that Wood already had an expert "of his own choosing," has not demonstrated why he needs a second and has shown "only generic reasons for confidentiality."

Earlier, a federal district judge ruled that relevant information about Wood's mental condition should not be concealed.

"At this stage of the proceedings, there is no need for 'trial by ambush' or 'gamesmanship,' " the Texas attorney general's office wrote in stating its opposition to Wood's appeal.

The appeals court, in its ruling Friday, agreed, saying that Wood's lawyers gave no reasons for a need for confidentiality.

The appeals court also pointed out that the lower court judge did not bar the lawyers from asking again for the second psychological expert but said that the public interest would not be served by stopping everything in the courts regarding Wood's case.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Mexico's death penalty repeal bill passed their Senate by a vote of 24 to 18!

The bill has only one more step to become law! It now goes on to Gov. Bill Richardson, who we hope will sign it. We'll inform you as soon as we know if Governor Richardson signs and we have one more state without the death penalty!

The New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty has supported this bill with a common-sense and compassionate combination of concern for victims' families and fiscal responsibility:

Qoute by Equal Justice USA

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Live blogging the New Mexico Death Penalty Bill

The Santa Fe Reporter will be live blogging when the repeal of the death penalty bill hits the New Mexico Senate floor tomorrow. They've got everything set up there, where you can participate in the discussion and listen to the live feed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Hell Hole News#8, FEBRUARY 13, 2009

Note: The following are taken from the diaries of death-row inmate Hank Skinner and do not represent views of the Texas Death Penalty blog or SADP. We have posted them because of several requests from our readers about the daily life on death-row.

Welcome to yet another edition of the damnedest stuff you ought not have to be reading except for the idiots who keep on forcing me to write it. But that’s ok, I guess.

My boys Rayland Tyner and Deon Jackson, week before last, set fire to the block, barricaded their cells and faded the team (extraction team, a k a goon squad) in protest of the atrocious condition we’re forced to endure here. Tyner had made ‘em run in on him three times before this. He goes pretty hard, kinda reminds me of Chi-town, Richard Cartwright. Although I doubt anyone could beat Chi-Town’s record of five (5) times in one day ---he’s in the books! Ha/ha! My book(or, more accurately, one I had a part in) “Writing for their Lives: Death Row USA” – it was available from Northwestern University Press and on Amazon.com. Buy the book! The proceeds pay to train capital defense attorneys!

Had to throw that lil’ plug in there………….. Tyner and Jackson, like the rest of us, are sick of the atrocious conditions, the food, lack of commissary items, onerous classification and disciplinary processes which the bubbas use to retaliate against us, oppressive atmosphere and toxic environment overall. The food is so bad, most days it’s inedible, spoiled and sour beans and vegetables, no condiments on the tray, burnt up food – especially the pancakes, ugh, ick, yuk, puke, choke, wretch, vomit. Mealy, stinking, old flour, rancid grease. Burnt black. Then they wanna serve ‘em to us for supper as breakfast, yet turn right around and serve ‘em to us again for breakfast too. An officer asked me, “Skinner do you eat them thangs?” I said, “Well, yeah if I ain’t got nothin’ else. Yeah, I try to choke one down”. He said, “Well, how do you eat em’?” I said “you just fold ’em in half and hold ‘em in one hand, use the other hand to pinch off your nose, shut. Take as big a bite as you can, chew real fast and swallow it before it makes you puke”. He said “Man! you braver than I am! Oooo-weee! I can smell that nastiness from here!” and gave an involuntary shudder as he walked away.

You know, if you’re level one and you could get commissary, you’d never eat this stuff. But Tyner and Jackson were level one. Hillman ain’t had nothin’ in that commissary in awhile now. They won’t give us no condiments on the tray – no butter, no sugar for the oatmeal, no tartar sauce for the sewer trout. You ought to taste this “fish” one time. If you did, I guarantee you’d never eat fish again for the rest of your natural born life.

Day before yesterday we had “hamburgers”. To start with they were full to brimming with the usual fillers, so much the inside looks like chip core when you break it apart--------not meat at all but ------strata. They were so desiccated and dried out they were hard, like shoe leather. I’ve got some pretty tough teeth but it hurt my teeth to chew it so I spit it out. I was gonna tear it up and flush it down the toilet but it wouldn’t tear. I’m not kidding. So I had to bend it back and forth, back and forth ‘til I finally broke it. After four or five more bending and breakings I finally got it small enough to flush without stopping up the toilet.

Later I realized I’d missed out! I heard one guy hollering down the run to the other and tell him that if you soak it in water for 2 – 3 hours it’d get soft enough to eat! Damn it! Why didn’t I think of that?!?!? And there I stood, looking longingly at my toilet’s hole, wishing that thing would magically come back together and jump up out of there, like a film when you run it backwards, so I could eat it.

Most people out there would ballyhoo the condiment issue like ”Oh, too bad! No sugar for his oatmeal! Who cares?” That’d probably be my first reaction, too. Let’s don’t be “coddling” the prisoners, eh!

I’ve never been “coddled” in my life……oh, wait, isn’t that like, where they gently cup your balls and fondle them or something? Nah, I’ve never had that done but, last time they ran-in one me they did grab ‘em real real hard and yank on ‘em like they were trying to pull ‘em off, after they raised up my shorts leg and sprayed them full of pepper spray, while I was on the floor, cuffed behind my back and shackled at the feet, with a dog strap around my neck. That was a pretty warm and very exciting experience. I can understand why some people get addicted to these use of force things….

Back to the condiments issue. Those are the only things that allow you to actually eat this rancid food – it hides or masks the true flavor long enough for you to swallow it without gagging. So it’s not the pigs or public’s perception there we’re ‘spoiled’ and used to living too good in here. Condiments, for us, are a necessity.

They they got this “sugar free” syrup packs -- we’re not diabetics – but the diabetics won’t eat it, either. It tastes so bad , it’s like, if you took some 2 week old dead possum guts and smeared ‘em on the rusty steel then touched your tongue to it, that’s what it tastes like on those pancakes. Bad as they taste, they’re better without that on them. You think I’m exaggerating, joking, makin it up? Nope. Ask anyone here. They’ll tell you the same.

The kluster f**k klowns were just here again! Ever since July of last year they’ve hit me every 20 – 25 days. They’re trying to get me to kill one of ‘em, I think. This time the “region 1 team” only tore up D-section 2 row where I live. Now they’re startin’ to give up what their real intent is, retaliation on me. I talk to the other guys, they don’t tear their stuff up – unless you’re like me ---a target. Dig this, and I got 40+ witnesses to this, now: last year every time they ran in, they come straight to my section and my cell first thing, hollerin’ “shake-down! shakedown! strip out”! You know that it is!! Ha/ha. When I was in D-section they run-in there first. When I move to E-section they run in there first. Back to D-section, here they come. So I got tired of the ho’s and faded the team. They they moved me to F-section Level III. Here they come over there first. See the pattern? Like they just got to do something to me, personally. Got to “get Skinner”. But all they’ve ever took from me is junk-drawer-at-the-house sort of “contraband”. A stinger, a fishing line, a homemade stapler, so I can staple my legal papers back together after the mail room rips ‘em up. A piece of wire – to make stinger, a tray, a pitcher – plastic, my bowls, my stamps, my legal material – tablets, pens, pencils, dictionary, carbon paper, envelopes, my t-shirts and thermals, empty bottles (disposable plastic water bottles, thin-as-paper sort. We’re not allowed any glass at all). My toothbrush. For some reason they really love to hate on my toothbrush, my comb, my bippy (like Comet or Ajax, scouring powder) my soap, toothpaste and antiperspirant. My toothpaste, they squirt it all out into the sink. My antiperspirant, they screw up the adjuster until it all comes out, break off the plastic, cut it in half and throw it in the sink, too. I guess the message there is, after you get back in your cell, they do not want you to be able to clean up the mess they made, wash yourself, have a clean mouth and breath or curb your B. O? Well, if it ain’t that it’s gotta be retaliation cuz I write out there and tell y’all about it? Engaging in constitutionally protected activity – that’s what I’m doing here, exercising my first and fourteenth amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression and equal protection and due process under the law. Ha/ha. Apparently Tiny Tim does not recognize that. He will. Soon. I’ve already alleged a continuing and ongoing pattern of retaliation in the grievances so I don’t need to file no more of those. Now it’s just “allege the specific facts” in the suit, which I’m about to do.

Well, this time they really outdid themselves on the retaliation angle. Man! They got a bottle of strawberry preserves from somewhere, I guess one of the LV1’s they hit before? Poured it all over my cell floor and it was all out on the run in front of my cell, too. Then they put my sheets down on the floor and proceeded to pull all my legal files and envelopes out of the storage bins under my bunk and throwed them all over my cell. So, you can imagine how long it took me to clean this up. Aren’t they so professional? That’s a real group of grown-ups, there. You see why I say it’s just a hate down? Not a shake down? Well, I guess they showed us, didn’t they?! Ha/ha ha/ha ha/ha.

They keep talkin’ about puttin’ cameras in here…boy! That’s the answer to everything these days ain’t it? Who cares? They’re gonna be running the place by themselves, then, for real! All the officers say they’re gonna quit. Who’d blame ‘em? They know what’s up with cameras. I can hardly wait! Then all these impromptu u.o.f’s (uses of force) will be caught on film! We can subpoena the tapes! Next time a warden or captain comes down here threatening us, pow! Caught on film! Next time they’re tearin’ up someone’s cell and destroying his property, throwing it all over the run and walking all over it, pow! Caught in the act and photo i.d’d! Won’t be no more “I didn’t do it, he did it!” or “I don’t know”…. The camera will know! Next time they’re down here doing a run-in, the captain wants to excessively gas the shit outa someone (like they do me!) and he tells the u.o.f. camera operator to turn the camera off a second – nope, pow! The run camera gotcha! Like, when the u.o.f. camera operator fails to catch som’ on film, it’s “human error”. Won’t be no more of that!

Back to Tyner/Jackson for a sec…. They said Jackson came out of the cell on ‘em and was going hard on ‘em all, touched ‘em up pretty good! Said the Sergeant caught out off the section! 5 on 1, 7-8 on 1. In the end they always get you. But it’s not whether you win or lose, no. It’s how you play the game. Jackson plays hard.

Mike Ward is a real p.o.s.! He just keeps on lying his ass off on Tabler – “He threatened the senator! He threatened the senator!” Liar, liar, pants on fire! Ha/ha. Whitmire’s already admitted repeatedly that Tabler never actually threatened him. It’s really sad to see such a venerable paper as the Austin American-Statesman revert to National Enquireresque, yellow tabloid journalism just to sell a few papers. Shut up, Mike Ward. The public is sick of you. So are we. If you wanna be Whitmire’s personal whore, do it behind closed doors.

Mark my words, this phone debacle will ultimately turn out to be the best thing to happen to death row in years

Best regards,


E-mail me with your comments or questions to: hwskinner@yahoo.com

Or send a letter to:

999143 Polunsky Unit

H. W. Hank Skinner

3872 FM 350 South

Livingston TX 77351-8580

Second Sharon Keller Incident Reported to Commission on Judicial Conduct

According to the Dallas Morning News, Judge Sharon Keller might have been involved in another misconduct, this time over the case of Larry Swearingen who has a strong claims of innocence.
By STEVE McGONIGLE / The Dallas Morning News

Just weeks before the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was charged with "willful and persistent conduct" that discredited the judiciary, she was involved in a second incident in which lawyers for a condemned man were initially blocked from filing a last-minute appeal.

Judge Sharon Keller, a former Dallas prosecutor, was called shortly after the court's general counsel and a clerk refused to formally accept legal filings requesting a halt to the execution of Larry Swearingen, a well-placed source told The Dallas Morning News. Keller's attorney confirmed she was alerted but said it was after the incident was resolved.

The January incident was reminiscent of the September 2007 case in which Michael Richard was executed after the court, allegedly on Keller's orders, refused to stay open past business hours to accept his attorneys' appeals.

Amid the nationwide controversy that erupted over Richard's execution, the state's highest criminal appeals court formalized its rules of procedure for executions. The written procedures said the duty judge should be notified of any filings and work closely with the general counsel "to reasonably accommodate" defense lawyers, especially if they notified the clerk's office that they were at risk of missing the deadline.

The Swearingen incident showed that problems remained.

Swearingen's lawyers arrived at the clerk's office at 5:01 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, after calling to say that copying problems were causing unexpected delays. Once inside, they were told their filings would not be entered into the court record until the office reopened Monday morning. That delay could have shortened the court's timeframe for evaluating the appeal and subjected defense counsel to sanctions for failing to meet a 48-hour deadline for filing petitions in execution cases.

Their pleadings were accepted only after another judge on the court, Cheryl Johnson, intervened and ordered the chief clerk to return to the courthouse, several people involved in the matter said.

Although there is some dispute over what role Keller may have played in the latest case, she has long been a lightning rod for opponents of the death penalty, who contend she routinely favors the state's position in capital cases. After the Richard execution, even some of her fellow judges were publicly outraged.

One of them, Johnson, had been the duty judge for Richard but had not been notified of the filing problems in that case. She intervened in the Swearingen case after his lawyers called her for help.

She later reported the incident to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, the source said, on condition of anonymity. The commission interviewed the court's general counsel about Swearingen, the source added.

Judge Mike Keasler said he, too, heard the commission had interviewed the general counsel, although he was not sure why.

The executive director of the judicial conduct commission, Seana Willing, said she could not confirm or deny knowledge of the Swearingen incident. She said she also could not discuss whether a complaint had been filed or anyone had been questioned.

Johnson declined to discuss the matter.

"Given all that's pending right now, I really don't want to comment," she told The News. "Richard was not pending, and Swearingen is still pending. I'm going to leave it at that."

Unlike Richard, Swearingen was not executed. A federal appeals court stayed his execution the day before he was to die to give his lawyers more time to pursue their case.

Concerns about how Swearingen played out, including why the judge assigned to the case was not notified, have prompted court members again to try to clarify their procedures, Keasler said.

"We need to get things as clear and as understandable so that everybody knows about it as much as possible," he said.

Sian Schilhab, the court's general counsel, downplayed the Swearingen incident and characterized it as a misunderstanding caused by the defense team's confusion. The filing was ultimately accepted without harm to Swearingen or his attorneys, she said.

Schilhab, who became general counsel last August after her predecessor retired under pressure because of his role in the Richard case, refused to say whether she had called Keller or whether she had been questioned by the commission.

"I feel like that's internal court procedures and it's privileged information. I feel like I would be violating my own ethics if I said anything," she told The News.

The commission has spent more than a year investigating complaints against Keller for allegedly ordering the court's staff to reject a last-minute filing by attorneys for Richard, a convicted murderer from the Houston area.

On Feb. 19, the commission charged Keller with "willful and persistent conduct that casts public discredit on the judiciary." It ordered a public hearing, which could produce a recommendation that Keller be removed from office.

Keller, who has been on the Austin court since 1995 and presiding judge for the past eight years, has insisted she did nothing improper in the Richard case. Her attorney, Chip Babcock, has said she intends to fight the charges and will not resign.

Babcock confirmed that Keller was called about the filing dispute in the Swearingen case, but he said he believed the conversation occurred a day or two later and was "just informational."

"She was otherwise not involved at all in this incident," he said.

Babcock said he knew a staff member had been questioned by the judicial conduct commission, but he did not know who or why. He said he did not know whether Johnson had spoken to the commission about Swearingen.

While the extent of Keller's involvement in the Swearingen case is unclear, Schilhab acknowledged that the duty judge was not contacted. She said there was nothing to discuss with him.

Schilhab insisted that no judge was called before she and the clerk told Swearingen's attorneys that their appeal had arrived too late to be file stamped within the 48-hour deadline.

"They could have filed it Monday morning," Schilhab said. "They would have just had to file an extra little piece of paper with it. No big deal."

Swearingen was sentenced to die for the 1998 murder of a 19-year-old college student. His lawyers had filed several unsuccessful appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals seeking to reverse his conviction and spare his life.

His latest appeal claims that newly discovered autopsy evidence proves the victim was murdered close to the time her body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest – long after Swearingen was jailed on unrelated traffic offenses.

Screening of After Innocence - UT Austin

Friday March 13, Noon
After Innocence
The Social Work Council presents the film After Innocence. With the emergence of DNA evidence, the justice system is seeing a wave of reversed criminal convictions. But what happens to those who are set free, sometimes decades after being imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit? Jessica Sanders takes a close look at some of these people in this gripping documentary that's both a harsh criticism of the current judicial system and a touching look at those profoundly affected by it. Noon in The Utopia Theater at the School of Social Work.

This event is part of a month of student activism re: prison awareness.

Pastor: Stop executions

In offering Monday's prayer in the House, the Rev. Michael Piazza of Dallas used the podium to back a moratorium on the death penalty. Just briefly.

Before starting his prayer, Piazza, pastor of the Cathedral of Hope church, noted that more than 1,000 members of his congregation had signed a petition seeking a moratorium and asked lawmakers to consider such a move.

After the amen, there was no rush to do so in the state with the nation's most active execution chamber.

Source: Austin American-Statesman

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Procession for the Future visits Austin

Austin Schedule:

The Procession for the Future visits Austin
March 12-14

Saturday’s parade starts at NOON and terminates
at Capital with music & speakers from 2-4 pm

Thursday, March 12
Arts for Social Change Workshop 7-9 pm at Parlin Hall 201
Drumming for Demonstrations Workshop 9-10 pm (PAR 201)

Friday, March 13
Creative Tactics Training 3-5 pm at Calhoun Hall 100
Creative Tactics, Drumming for Demonstrations, and DIY Silk Screaning
Workshops, 6-9 pm at Rhizome Collective at 300 Allen St.

Saturday, March 14
Procession for the Future (PARADE!)
12 NOON - 2 pm (Rally 2-4 at Capital)
Meet at Republic Square Park at 4th and Guadalupe - Downtown.

Take any of these FREE workshops, then carry a puppet
and perform this spectacle celebration of progressive values. Let’s come
together to celebrate the role of We the People to define and
propel Change we can believe in.

For more information on the Austin Parade & workshops contact:
globalwo@gmail.com or call 512-909-0483
Facebook Group: Global Warming Organization
visit - www.ProcessionForTheFuture.org

Friday, March 06, 2009

Capital Punishment: An Indictment by a Death-Row Survivor

Arcade Publishing has published a book titled Capital Punishment: An Indictment by a Death-Row Survivor by Billy Wayne Sinclair and Jodie Sinclair, with a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, who calls the book “a searing condemnation and a powerful guide to the futility and arrogance of the death penalty carried out in the name of justice.”

In its landmark 1972 Furman v. Georgia ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as “capricious and arbitrary,” automatically commuting all death sentences to life in prison, but leaving the door open for states to reestablish the procedure. Many states—led by Texas, Georgia, and Florida—took the decision as a challenge and by 1976 reinstated it. Today some 3,300 men and women await their fate on death row.

Billy Wayne Sinclair was just twenty-one years old when he heard a Louisiana judge say, “I hereby sentence you to death in the electric chair,” a sentence resulting from a botched convenience store holdup in which Billy accidentally shot and killed a man. Spared by the 1972 ruling, he spent forty years in the Louisiana prison system, including twenty years in Angola prison, one of the country’s worst—six of those years on death row.

After defeating unfathomable depression, he took up law and soon became a respected jailhouse lawyer. Billy Wayne helped integrate the still segregated Angola prison and exposed rampant corruption within the jail itself and among the state’s high-ranking politicians. He also studied journalism, and his articles won several national prizes, including the prestigious Polk Award. But memories of those six years on death row still haunt him to this day.

In this groundbreaking work, the authors examine the death penalty in great detail, from ancient history to the latest U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Informed by Billy Wayne’s firsthand experience and decades of study, Capital Punishment offers vital information about, and insights into, a subject as heated and controversial today as it ever was.

Billy Wayne Sinclair has won the PEN Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. Released from prison in 2006, he is senior paralegal at the John T. Floyd Law Firm. www.johntfloyd.com His wife, Jodie Sinclair, earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and is director of public relations at a law firm. They live in Houston.

Billy Wayne Sinclair was interviewed extensively as part of a story about an Angola Prison murder case on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Adventures in Wonderland Starring Sharon Keller as the Red Queen

The Houston Chronicle's Rick Casey has some interesting commentary in his column Sunday about the shenanigans at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on the day that Sharon Keller closed the court instead of accepting an appeal from a man set for execution that day. It is vital that Keller stand trial so that the public can find out more about the workings of the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Vince Leibowitz, a reporter for a blog called Capitol Annex, reported this week that several judges on the state’s highest court for criminal matters want their chief judge, Sharon Keller, to resign.

Keller has been charged by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct with violations of the judicial conduct code in connection with her alleged refusal to keep the court clerk’s office open for a last-minute appeal for a death row inmate, or to inform the judge assigned to take last-minute appeals that the inmate’s lawyers were attempting to file one.

Now Keller must face the equivalent of a public trial and could lose her office.

Leibowitz quotes his source as saying the judges, at least some of whom would have to testify, feared more media scrutiny could hurt their re-election chances.

Their concern is justified. A good portion of the public might be alarmed to know, for example, that the judges acted a bit like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland.

“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

Life rarely imitates art exactly. As usual, it was a little more complicated.

Convicted murderer Michael Wayne Richard was set to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Sept. 25, 2007. That morning the U.S. Supreme Court accepted a case called Baze v. Rees challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection.

According to the formal charges by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Judge Cathy Cochran at 11:29 a.m. e-mailed to Keller and her other colleagues an Internet link to the Kentucky Supreme Court decision that was being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The document then says that in “early afternoon” the court’s general counsel, Edward Marty, “began drafting a proposed order for the court in anticipation of Mr. Richard’s appeal based on Baze. The Honorable Judge Tom Price drafted a dissenting opinion in anticipation of Mr. Richard’s appeal and circulated the dissent to the other judges.”

What the document omits is that the judges first took an informal vote. I have it on good authority that the tally was 5-4 to turn down Richard’s appeal.

They made up their minds without waiting for the arguments of Richard’s lawyers.

David Dow, the University of Houston Law Center lawyer who headed Richard’s defense team, called the procedure “outrageous.”

“It’s the equivalent of them sticking their fingers in their ears,” he said. The judges may well have felt confident they could anticipate the arguments, and they didn’t want to wait until late in the day to begin taking up the matter.

h/t TMN