Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, took a step closer to securing another six years on the bench after narrowly winning Tuesday’s Republican primary, reports the Texas Tribune. Keller, 64, beat David Bridges with about 52 percent of the vote with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Keller was elected to the state’s highest criminal appellate court in 1994, and she has held the lead role as presiding judge since 2001. She and the eight other judges handle all death penalty reviews and serve as the last resort for all criminal appeals in the state.
Bridges, 62, challenged Keller largely based on ethical controversies over the years, which include a $25,000 fine in 2013 for failing to disclose nearly $3 million of personal real estate holdings and a 1998 opinion refusing to grant a new trial in a rape case despite DNA evidence suggesting the convicted man didn’t commit the crime (he was pardoned by then-Gov. George W. Bush). She rejected a 2007 death penalty appeal because the lawyers filed it a few minutes past the deadline. Keller insisted, “We close at five,” and the man was executed that night. The decision brought questions from the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, criticism from state legislators and earned her the nickname “Sharon Killer.” She said that the controversy was behind her and noted that voters knew of those incidents when they re-elected her in 2012, although she didn’t face a Republican primary opponent on the ballot that year.