death penalty news—-TEXAS

Mar. 25

TEXAS—-new execution date

David Wood has been given an execution date for August 20; it should be
considered serious.

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)


At rally, activists lobby for judge's removal, death penalty reform

Nathan Been, 14, holds a picture of his uncle, Jeff Wood, at the Capitol
on Tuesday. Wood was sentenced to death as an accomplice in a 1996 robbery
in which a store clerk was killed. Been is a member of Kids Against the
Death Penalty.

On the heels of the recent abolition of the death penalty in New Mexico,
dozens of activists lobbied on the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday
afternoon to advocate reform in the death penalty system as well as the
impeachment of Judge Sharon Keller.

Keller, presiding judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is under
investigation for judicial misconduct after refusing to take a late appeal
in 2007 from Michael Wayne Richard, who was executed later that day.
Keller said the appeal came 15 minutes after the courts 5 p.m. closing
time and denied all charges against her in an appeal filed Tuesday.

"Sharon Keller is the face of Texas death penalty," said Bryan McCann, a
member of Campaign to End the Death Penalty and a communication studies
graduate student. "She represents a pro-prosecution judge and has made no
qualms about it."

In February, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct charged Keller with
discrediting the state judiciary for violating execution-day duties. The
judge must face a public hearing to respond to the accusations. If
convicted, Keller faces the possibility of being removed from office.

"She has made outrageous decisions and shouldnt be ruling any more cases
unless she proves herself innocent," said government senior Hooman
Hedayati, president of Texas Students Against the Death Penalty.

The family members of several people who have been or are currently on
death row were also present at the rally, bearing signs and T-shirts
printed with the faces of those convicted.

The majority of the signs stated that the person on death row had been
convicted under the Law of Parties, which states that people may be found
guilty for conspiring, attempting to conspire or not making a reasonable
attempt to stop an offense.

Texas leads the nation in the number of executions performed, and 373
people currently sit on death row, according to the Death Penalty
Information Center.

Gov. Rick Perry holds the countrys record for most executions performed
under a governors term, eclipsing previous record holder George W. Bush,
McCann said. He added that regardless of who is serving in the office, the
policies should be reformed.

"The Keller case and the Law of Parties highlights problems within the
death penalty system," McCann said. "They provide an opportunity to push
reform to the front of state, and even national, attention."

(source: Daily Texan)


Keller shifts blame for execution blunder

The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Tuesday
shifted blame for the 2007 execution of Michael Wayne Richard from herself
to the Texas Defender Service.

Presiding Judge Sharon Keller is facing formal proceedings from the state
Judicial Conduct Commission accusing her of violating Richards rights by
ordering the court clerks office closed promptly at 5 p.m. the day of his
execution. The proceedings could lead to her removal from office.

In her formal response filed Tuesday, Keller said the Texas Defender
Service has filed previous death penalty appeals with the court after the
clerk's office closed. She also noted that the Texas Rules of Appellate
Procedure allow for after-hours appeals to be filed either with the clerk
or a judge of the court willing to accept the case.

Keller said all the judges of the court are listed in the blue pages of
the telephone book and the phone number of court General Counsel Ed Marty
phone number was listed on his letterhead and known to (the defender

She said when Marty called her on the day of the execution about a
defender service request that the clerk's office stay open late, she
understood that only to be about the clerks office, not Richards ability
to file an appeal.

"Judge Keller did not, and could not have, if she had wanted to, close
access to the court in light (of the appellate procedure rules)," said the
brief by her lawyer, Chip Babcock.

Keller also cited a Houston Chronicle story from this past weekend on 9
cases in which lawyers failed to timely file appeals for death row
inmates, with 6 resulting in executions.

"By the commission's logic, the ethics of the judges in those cases should
have been questioned because they did not ensure that the pleadings were
filed in a timely manner," Keller's brief said.

The Texas Defender Service said Keller is trying to deflect attention
because she "knowingly broke the rules" and caused Richards execution when
he likely could have gotten a stay.

Neal Manne, counsel for the service, said the judicial conduct commission
found that Keller knew she was not the assigned judge handling the Richard
execution and that she should have referred the calls to that judge,
Cheryl Johnson.

"The commission has properly focused on Judge Keller's conduct, and has
not in any way suggested that Texas Defender Service acted improperly or
was at fault," Manne said.

Richard was executed for the 1986 murder of Marguerite Dixon in Hockley
near Houston.

(source: Houston Chronicle)