The wife of executed killer Michael Richard filed a federal lawsuit yesterday accusing Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of causing the inmate’s Sept. 25 lethal injection, the Houston Chronicle reports. Marsha Richard argues that Keller had no authority to prevent what would have been a successful appeal to stay her husband’s execution. The lawsuit says Keller violated Richard’s due process rights when she ordered the court clerk’s office to close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 before his lawyers could file an appeal. Houston attorney David Dow had asked for more time after having computer problems. Richard, 49, was executed at 8:22 p.m. for a 1986 rape and murder.
Judges have “absolute judicial immunity,” which means they cannot be sued for actions taking place within the jurisdiction of their court, said University of Houston law Prof. Peter Hoffman. That protection does not extend to administrative acts, which is how Hoffman describes what Keller did. Still, because the judge followed standard procedures, he thinks she will be protected by “qualified immunity.”