Tuesday, September 19, 2006

8-1: I am no Henry Fonda

Have you ever seen that old movie with Henry Fonda called "12 Angry Men" about a murder trial where everyone on the jury votes to convict except one person who thinks the person is innocent. He eventually changes everyone's minds and they vote "not guilty" unanimously. I tried to pull that last December on the CCA, but I could not succeed in changing even one person's mind. It was a bit different than in the movie though. Everyone thought the person was innocent, except me. I could not convince one single person that I was right. I need to go rent that movie again so I can get some tips on how to argue better.

I have come to expect the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule me and lower federal courts to overrule me, but this is too much. My very own court all turned against me. The vote was 8 to 1 and I lost. Everyone else thought this woman's conviction should be overturned, but not me. No one wanted to support me. I am the presiding judge and I get no respect on my own court.

Today, I read in The Houston Chronicle that Brandy Del Briggs is seeking to regain custody of the child she had lost custody of after she was "wrongfully" convicted of murdering her other child. Briggs was exonerated and released after spending five years in prison "wrongfully" convicted of killing her other child. I was the only member of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who voted to deny relief to Brandy Del Briggs. The vote on the court was 8-1 with me being the one. Forget about "12 Angry Men", this was "Rebel without a Cause". Everyone else voted to overturn the conviction on grounds that the "applicant's attorney failed to adequately investigate this case under the standards set out in Strickland v. Washington and Wiggins v. Smith." I argued in my dissent that the trial counsel was not ineffective, but that he was following a "reasonable trial strategy".

Brandy Del Briggs was released in December 2005. Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal later dropped charges against her because he could not prove she was guilty. The Houston Chronicle wrote an editorial arguing that she should be compensated for the five years she spent in prison:
Whatever Rosenthal's personal beliefs or intuition about the cause of baby Daniel's death, he has admitted he cannot make the case against Briggs. Unless the definition of innocence in Harris County depends on Rosenthal's unsubstantiated opinions, that makes this one-time defendant innocent and qualified for state restitution funds.
Briggs was charged with murder in the May 1999 death of her first son, Daniel Lemons. She pleaded guilty to injury to a child and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

She denied harming 2-month-old Daniel but said her attorney told her she would receive probation if she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. The attorney, Richard Anderson, has denied saying that.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Briggs' conviction last December and she was released. The court cited ineffective counsel, saying her lawyer had not thoroughly investigated Daniel's medical records.

Experts who reviewed the records for her appellate attorney, Charles Portz, said a birth defect had caused a bacterial infection in the infant, who had been in and out of hospitals. They also said a breathing tube mistakenly was inserted in Daniel's stomach rather than his lungs at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, depriving his brain of oxygen for at least 30 minutes.

His death originally was ruled a homicide, but Harris County Medical Examiner Luis Sanchez later changed the ruling to "undetermined," saying he found no evidence of abuse.

What is the point of being the presiding judge if no one listens to me. Am I irrelevant on my own court. Should I just resign? I don't know what to do. Please advise in the comments.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My answers to a candidate questionnaire

Q: Name:

A: Sharon Killer

Q: Candidate for:

A: Presiding Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals

Q: District (if applicable):

A: Statewide

Q: Street address:

A: P.O. Box 29914

Q: City:

A: Austin

Q: State:

A: Texas

Q: Length of residency in Dallas County:

A: Permanent resident since birth, currently residing in Austin.

Q: Occupation/main source of income:

A: Presiding Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals

Q: Current civic involvement/accomplishment highlights:

A: Executive Board, Capitol Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. Executive Board, S.M.U./Dedman School of Law. Chairman, Task Force on Indigent Defense. Participant in development of a school curriculum about court system. Member, Settlement Home for Children.

Q: Previous civic involvement/accomplishment highlights:

A: 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service from S.M.U. Dedman School of Law.

Q: Education:

A: S.M.U. School of Law, J.D. 1978. Rice University, B.A. 1975.

Q: Date of birth:

A: August 1, 1953

Q: Previous public offices sought/held:

A: Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals 1995-2001

Q: How much funding have you raised for your campaign?

A: Approximately $1700.00

Q: Who are your top three contributors?

A: Thomas R. Phillips. William G. (Bud) Arnot, III. W.C. (Bud) Kirkendall.

Q: Phone number:

A: (512) 695-9414

Q: Fax number:

A: n/a

Q: E-mail address:

A: judgesharonkiller@gmail.com

Q: Campaign Web site:

A: www.myspace.com/judgesharonkiller and www.sharonkiller.com

Q: Which sitting judge do you hold up as a role model, and why?

A: Clarence Thomas, because of the manner in which he addresses constitutional issues.

Q: What role, if any, does mercy have in justice?

A: Mercy is an appropriate consideration for a jury or a sentencing judge. It plays no role in my decisions.

Q: Define and describe your view of a judge's appropriate temperament.

A: A judge should be patient, dignified, courteous and have a sense of humor.

Q: When should a judge overrule a jury's decision?

A: According to our case law, an appellate judge should overrule a jury's decision when it is irrational. Voters should vote out of office a judge who is irrational. An example of an irrational judge would be one who refuses to grant a new trial in a case in which DNA has proven a person's innocence .

Q: As a lawyer or judge, what types of cases have you typically handled?

A: Criminal appeals of punks, thugs & killers, every once in a while I get a case concerning a politician, like Tom Delay, wait, I am repeating myself.

Q: As a judge (if applicable), have any complaints been filed against you to the Judicial Conduct Committee? If so, please explain the dispositions.

A: Yes. Two complaints have been filed and both were dismissed. I do not recall whether there were findings on the first complaint, but it was dismissed promptly. The second was dismissed upon a finding that I had not violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. I have also filed my own complaints against MySpace.com.

Q: As a lawyer, have any complaints been filed against you with the Grievance Committee? If so, please explain the dispositions (unfounded, private reprimand, public reprimand, suspension, disbarment)?

A: No complaints filed, but I expect one soon concerning my handling of the Susan Reed incident, because some people think I acted improperly for not recusing myself from ruling on whether my friend Susan should have been allowed to continue to lead the investigation of the Ruben Cantu case.

Q: Have you ever been arrested? If so, explain.

A: Never arrested in real life.

Q: Is there a problem with legal services provided to indigent defendants in Texas? If so, how would you seek to address it?

A: The indigent defense system in Texas could be improved. Blah blah... As chairman of the state organization charged with improving indigent defense I have been instrumental in creating the grant program that assists counties in paying for indigent defense, and in creating the system for reporting county standards and defense plans. Blah blah... I have participated in funding mental health programs in the Public Defender Office in Dallas and in other counties, in funding the creation of P.D. offices (including the first regional P.D. office in Texas), and in many other projects and studies to promote best practices and pilot projects for the improvement of indigent defense. blah blah blah...

Q: The Supreme Court oath that lawyers take requires them to say they will avoid the appearance of impropriety. In light of that, should judges accept campaign contributions from lawyers who have appeared, or may appear, before them in court?

A: In Texas, it is normal practice for judges to accept campaign contributions from lawyers who appear before them. I have accepted money from prosecutors who are my friends such as Jack Skeen and David Dobbs. Jack Skeen is the current DA in the office that prosecuted Napoleon Beazley, who was one of the last juvenile offenders I was able to get executed. I have also received money from the Bexar County Republican Women PAC. Susan Reed, the Bexar County DA, has given money to the Bexar County Republican Women PAC. I ruled in Susan Reed's favor. I do not believe that the practice necessarily creates an appearance of impropriety. Judges should, however, be careful to avoid the appearance of favoring contributors. I think I am pretty good at covering things up.

Q: Federal courts have overturned a number of high-profile Texas death penalty cases. Why is this, and what should be done about it?

A: Yeah, the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled me a bunch of times. I have also been overruled a lot by lower federal courts. I do my best to make sure people are executed, but sometimes I am overruled. Oh well. If the Supreme Court was elected like me, I would probably not be overruled so much. I am happy that I was able to juice up so many juvenile offenders, before the Supreme Court starting taking orders from the French and said I couldn't do that anymore. Merde!

Q: Do you favor a system of appointed judges with regular retention elections?

A: I do not favor appointment of judges. If it weren't for elections of judges, there would not be so many executions in Texas.

Q: Do you favor any changes to the Open Meetings and Public Records laws? Please be specific.

A: The Open Meetings and Public Record laws are already fairly expansive, so my answer is "no". I was in favor of the adoption of the rule of judicial administration that is the judiciary's counterpart to the open meetings laws.

Q: What prompted you to run for this office?

A: I want to serve my state, and this job offers me the ability to do so extensively. I also like playing God. When someone is executed, I often put on that old song, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and do a little dance in my office.

Q: Describe an example of how you've led a team or group toward achieving a particular goal.

A: I have led the other members of the Court of Criminal Appeals several times to vote against granting new trials to people who claim they are innocent. For instance, I voted to execute Kerry Max Cook, Ernest Willis, Anthony Graves and Cameron Todd Willingham. Some federal court overruled me on the first three, but Willingham is dead and you can thank me. Of course, I led the Court to deny a new trial for Roy Criner, but Governor Bush granted him clemency and let him go. That was the case where there was DNA evidence that exonerated Criner, but I don't care too much about science. I never got good grades in science classes. I just don't get that stuff. I may not understand a lot about science, but I understand promiscuity. Criner's victim was promiscuous, so we don't know who she had sex with, plus Criner could have used a condom, although that never came up at the trial level, but I convinced the rest of the CCA members to believe the possibility that Criner used a condom and to deny him a new trial. Do you know how hard it is to convince an appellate court to base a decision on facts that were not presented at the trial? I am a born leader.

Q: What political leaders do you admire, and why?

A: Ronald Reagan is my favorite political leader because he accomplished so many good things for our country.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Susan, you owe me and Barbara. We got your back!

Hi Everyone,

I am really enjoying the Labor Day weekend. I almost went to the Longhorns game, but I didn't remember to score any free tickets this week from UT, which gives them away like candy to judges and other elected officials in the hopes that we will scratch their backs when they get to our courtrooms. I figured Barbara would have some, since she ALWAYS seems to remember to hit up UT for the free tickets. I read in the Statesman today that "Judge Barbara Hervey of the Texas Court of Crimina Appeals said she accepted 26 tickets (to UT football games), including 10 for free". Anyhow, Barbara didn't have any tickets this weekend, so I missed the game. You owe me Barbara. Next weekend, call Susan and let's all get together.

Speaking of scratching backs, me and Barbara had to swat down an attempt to get our pal Susan Reed removed from heading the investigation into the Ruben Cantu fiasco in San Antonio. Some defense attorney for a street punk filed a motion wanting an independent prosecutor appointed to look into the case and to have Susan removed because when she was a judge, before becoming Bexar County DA, she had reviewed one of Cantu's appeals and set his execution date. It took Barbara and me about two minutes to round up support on the court for dismissing the motion and letting Susan continue to lead the investigation.

No way was I or Barbara going to remove any DA, and especially not Susan, from doing an investigation, no matter what anyone says about a conflict of interest. The support of district attorneys is one of the reasons I got elected. Shout out to Jack Skeen and David Dobbs for contributing money to my campaign back in the day. Jack is a dear friend and the Smith County DA. David is his assistant DA. They rock! Jack wrote a letter to Gov Perry in 2002 urging Rick in the strongest terms possible to "DENY the request of Judge Cynthia Kent to commute Napoleon Beazley's sentence to life." His letter was in response to a letter from State District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent, who presided over Beazley's 1995 trial, asking that his sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. Of course, Rick did not commute the sentence and we were able to get Beazley juiced up and six feet under before the Supreme Court banned executions of juvenile offenders in 2005. Damn federal courts. How many times do I have to say it, stop overruling me! Smith County is also the DA office that was responsible for the wrongful conviction of Kerry Cook. He is another one that got away, just like Ernest Willis. Cook spent 20 years on death row, then got exonerated and was released. I voted to keep him on death row and kill him, but a federal court overruled me. Damn federal court.

So what was I saying? Oh yea. Susan Reed is one of ours. We are going to protect her. She has contributed money to the campaigns of Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Elizabeth Jones, Gregg Abbot, and the Bexar County Republican Women PAC. On August 8, 2005 Susan Reed gave $250 to the Bexar County Republican Women PAC. In turn, the Bexar County Republican Women PAC gave Judge Barbara Hervey $950 on June 15, 2006. They even gave me $300 back in 2000. What was it that Deep Throat said to Woodward, "Just follow the money", lol. What goes around comes around. Republicans Rule! Susan, we got your back!

20 Hamburgers you must eat before you die

My Daddy, Jack Keller, started a family restaurant in Dallas in 1950 called Keller's Drive-in. It's still going strong. That's Daddy in the picture.

Someone sent me a link to an article in GQ magazine called, "The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die", which named a hamburger at my Daddy's restaurant as the 10th best burger in the country. According to the article, "the hamburger is a symbol of everything that makes America great. Straightforward, egalitarian, substantial, and good-natured, it is also a little bloody at times". Isn't that hilarious? It describes me exactly, straightforward and a little bloody. FATFLOL.

I wonder if anyone I helped get executed in Texas ever made a last request of a Keller's Drive-in burger. They should, it's bloody good, but they probably can't anyhow. A little known secret is that the last meal in Texas is not anything you want. It's whatever they have in the prison kitchen that comes close to being what you want. And if you order, "Justice" as your last meal, like a smartass, well, then you just die, er I mean go to sleep, hungry.

Go eat a burger. Tell Jack, his bloody daughter sent you. ;-)

Keller's Drive-In
6537 E. Northwest Highway, 214-368-1209 and 10554 Harry Hines Blvd., 214-357-3572

The Pope is wrong. I am not.

You may have heard that in the Texas Legislature, they call me Sharon Killer, but on my own court my nickname is Mother Superior. I like both nicknames. I understand where they both come from. I am quiet, studious, diligent, and generally closemouthed (until I discovered the Internet lol). I am a conservative Catholic on a mission. One of my staffers had it right, saying "She believes she's doing the work of God." I am Catholic, but I think I know what God wants more than the Pope does. I don't have a lot of respect for the views of Catholic leaders on the death penalty.

In his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" (The Gospel of Life) issued March 25, 1995 after four years of consultations with the world's Roman Catholic bishops, John Paul II wrote that execution is only appropriate "in cases of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvement in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

The new Catechism of the Catholic Church says: 'If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'"

Good thing there isn't any blood using the method of lethal injection. They just kind of go to sleep. And I control who sleeps in Texas.

Innocents executed? Oh Please

That video about an innocent person maybe having been executed in Texas is thought provoking. It makes me wonder, but it doesn't keep me awake at night. I wasn't on the court back in 1989, when Carlos De Luna was executed and I haven't read his file, but I suspect he got what he deserved. Everyone is trying to prove that Texas has executed an innocent person. That report on De Luna is the third time in the last two years that some newspaper has made a big splash trying to prove that we juiced up the wrong person. The other two "innocent" people that Texas supposedly wrongly executed were Ruben Cantu and Cameron Todd Willingham. I wasn't on the court when Cantu was executed, but I was here when Willingham was executed in 2004. So, now the Chicago Tribune and the Innocence Project think that he was innocent and that the fire that killed his three daughters was just a fire and not murder by arson. Yeah, right. I am glad he was executed before some fancy lawyer could free him like they freed that other guy named Ernest Willis. Willis was on death row for murder by arson too. I voted to juice him, but a federal court overruled us and then he was exonerated and released in 2004. He's now a free man. Damn federal courts. I wish they would stop overruling me.

Anyhow, watch the video and then be glad that I am the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, because as long as I am here, I am going to make sure that we execute more guilty people than supposedly "innocent" ones. Texas is a safer place because of my work on the court. You can thank me with your vote in November.

Welcome to the internets (ha ha)

Welcome to my internet, lol, just kidding, do you think all of us Republicans are as out of it as Sen. Stevens of Alaska. His staff keeps sending him internets that he can't read because his pipes are full. I don't know what he's been smoking. My staff kept sending me invitations to get on the internets, so now I did.

Seriously, I am not going to have a real campaign, since this is Texas, and I am a Republican on the Court of Criminal Appeals, so I am going to win anyhow. Instead of going out on the campaign trail, I thought I would do a virtual campaign, it's better for the environment that way, and I luv those little salamander critters in Barton Springs.

I can't discuss internal judicial deliberations on here, but I got to say what is up with those people complaining that the CCA has had a death penalty case involving Gabriel Gonzales for six years without ruling on the case. I mean some cases take longer than others, give me a break. In the end, everyone knows what we are going to do anyhow. And the prolonged lull has nothing to do with political or personal agendas. We do not do politics on this court. We affirm human rights. It is a violation of human rights not to allow the state to carry out sentences of death and I am here to make sure that those sentences are carried out. Executions are the sign of a healthy society.