She was waitin’ on the repair guy
BY JOHN KELSO COX NEWSPAPERS
One thing you can say about Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: She sure understands the importance of quitting time.
Keller is facing ethics charges that could cost her her job. They were filed last week by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for closing the office right on schedule when the attorneys for death row inmate Michael Richard were trying to file a stay of execution for Richard. He was scheduled to be executed that evening.
And even though that morning the U.S. Supreme Court had announced it would look into whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, Keller pointed out that the clerk’s office didn’t stay open past 5 p.m.
Richard was executed at 8:20.
Hey, maybe American Idol was on that night.
Anyway, on the morning in question, September 25th, 2007, the thinking was that courts across the country would wait until the Supreme Court decided on the lethal injection question before proceeding with more executions.
Keller, however, apparently had a pretty tight schedule. So that afternoon she left work early to meet a repairman at her house.
That might seem a bit callous under the circumstances, but we all know how hard it is to get some of these Mister Fixit types to come back later. Meanwhile, Richard’s lawyers, who wanted to file that stay, were having computer problems. So, according to the ethics charges against Keller, around 4:45—15 minutes before quittin’ time at the appeals court—Richard’s lawyers asked the court clerk’s office to stay open a few minutes late to accept the request.
Ed Marty, the appeals court’s general counsel, got on the phone to relay the request to Keller. Marty says he told Keller that Richard’s lawyers “wanted the court to stay open late.” Keller says Marty asked only about keeping the clerk’s office open past 5 p.m. And that she said, “No.” The clerks, you see, went home on schedule every day at quittin’ time.
No sense inconveniencing the help just ’cause some inmate’s about to get offed, right?
A friend wondered why Richard’s lawyers didn’t call Governor Rick Perry for help. Hey, if they had, instead of being executed at 8:20, Richard would have been executed at 6:01.
During all this, I wonder what kind of work Keller was having done at her house. I also wonder whether she called her doctor to get something to help her sleep.
• –––––—John Kelso writes for the Austin American-Statesman.