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(cross-posted at The Christian Dem Home Journal)

Last night, I mentioned an article in yesterday's NYT that seemed to indicate Sharon "We close at 5" Keller may have known that Michael Richard was about to file an appeal for his pending execution well in advance of her decision not to allow his attorneys to file an appeal after the deadline.

Well, I just had a chance to read the formal bill of particulars in the Keller case (hat tip to Scott Cobb).  The findings of fact in the case indicate that Keller knew or had reason to know that Richard was about to file an appeal--and yet closed the court anyway.  Simply refusing to accept any new business would be by itself grounds for removal from the bench.  However, knowingly refusing to let Richard's appeal go forward, is, to my mind, grounds for bringing Keller up on charges of violating Richard's civil rights.

More analysis after the jump ...

The complaint strongly indicates that Keller knew in the early afternoon that Richard's lawyers were going to file an appeal for a stay of his execution based on SCOTUS' decision to grant cert in Baze v. Rees.  At that time, a proposed order had already been drafted in anticipation of Richard's appeal.

A few hours later, the Court of Criminal Appeals' general counsel got word from the Harris County (Houston) DA's office that Richard's attorneys intended to appeal the execution.  The general counsel then emailed all of the judges on the court with this information--including Keller.

Based on this evidence, the commission found that when Keller got a call from the general counsel asking for permission to forward the appeal, she knew exactly what the call was about.

To my mind, we're not merely talking about a judge who simply refused to keep the clerk's office open for any new business.  We're talking about a judge who knew an appeal for a stay of execution was about to be filed, and refused to permit it to be filed.  That, to my mind, is a violation of Richard's right to a fair trial as enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the federal constitution and Article 1, section 10 of the Texas constitution.

In light of this, simply removing Keller from office and seeking her disbarment won't be nearly enough.  She needs to be brought up--either in a criminal case or a civil suit by Richard's family--on charges of violating Richard's civil rights.  This is a black mark not just on Texas, but our entire criminal-justice system.

Originally posted to Christian Dem in NC on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 02:40 PM PST.

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