A special Texas court yesterday threw out an ethics rebuke given to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller for closing the Court of Criminal Appeals despite knowing that lawyers wanted to file an appeal for an inmate facing imminent execution in 2007, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The three-judge panel threw out the charges that accused Keller of violating her duty as a judge and prohibits the State Commission on Judicial Conduct from refiling the accusations.
The special court said commissioners chose the wrong punishment for Keller, opting for a warning when state law and the Texas Constitution limited their options to a “censure,” a more serious penalty. The judges said they did not address the merits of the charges against Keller. “Sharon Keller may have got off on a technicality, but a majority of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct found that she did not accord a person about to be executed with  the right to be heard according to law,” said Scott Cobb of the Texas Moratorium Network , an anti-death penalty group. Keller's handling of death row inmate Michael Richard's case drew international condemnation and confirmed, for many death penalty opponents, the image of Texas as a bloodthirsty place with a kill first, ask questions later mentality. Keller maintained that she did nothing wrong by foreclosing an appeal from Richard, a high school dropout convicted of raping and murdering a mother of seven grown children.