Monday, October 08, 2007

Come back tomorrow, this blog closes at 5 PM

Ha Ha, I got another one and I made it over to Whole Foods before the masses showed up. If you get to WF too late after work, the lines are way too long and that utterly dismays me. Mange la merde, Meester Ree-CHARD.

AUSTIN — Judge Cheryl Johnson said she was dismayed when she first learned from a newspaper report that a colleague closed the doors of Texas' highest criminal court at 5 p.m. as attorneys for a death row inmate rushed to file an appeal.

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller closed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals offices at the regular time Sept. 25, preventing attorneys for inmate Michael Richard from filing an appeal seeking to halt Richard's execution hours after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would consider a Kentucky case questioning the constitionality of lethal injection.

Richard was executed that night after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant him a reprieve.

The Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday that Keller made the decision to close without consulting any of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' eight other judges or later informing them about the decision — including Johnson, who was assigned to handle any late motions in Richard's case.

"And I was angry," she said. "If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought to have known about those things, and I ought to have been asked whether I was willing to stay late and accept those filings."

Johnson said her first reaction was "utter dismay."

Johnson said she would have accepted the brief for consideration by the court. "Sure," she said. "I mean, this is a death case."

News of the court's refusal appeared in newspapers, and critical editorials, around the world.

The Supreme Court had accepted the lethal injection case earlier that day, and Richard's lawyers argued that the extra time was needed to respond to the new circumstances and to address computer problems that delayed the printing of Richard's motion.

Since then, two executions have been blocked in Texas, signaling a temporary halt to the busiest death penalty state in the nation.

At least three judges were working late in the courthouse that evening, and others were available by phone if needed, court personnel said.

None of the judges was informed of Richard's request by Keller or by the court's general counsel, Edward Marty, who had consulted with Keller on the request.

Keller defended her actions, saying she was relating the court's long-standing practice to close on time.

"I got a phone call shortly before 5 and was told that the defendant had asked us to stay open. I asked why, and no reason was given," Keller said. "And I know that that is not what other people have said, but that's the truth. They did not tell us they had computer failure.

"And given the late request, and with no reason given, I just said, 'We close at 5.' I didn't really think of it as a decision as much as a statement."

Judge Cathy Cochran questioned whether or not justice had been served in the Richard case.

"First off, was justice done in the Richard case? And secondly, will the public perceive that justice was done and agree that justice was done?" Cochran said. "Our courts should be open to always redress a true wrong, and as speedily as possible. That's what courts exist for."

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