death penalty news—-TEXAS

August 18


Admitted killer of 2 seeks to avoid death penalty

Jurors deciding the fate of a man who admitted killing 2 Christian music
producers on Monday heard testimony about his troubled upbringing, mental
health issues and use of drugs.

Defense attorneys hope the evidence will persuade jurors to sentence him
to life without parole instead of lethal injection.

Witnesses called by the defense testified that James Broadnax may have
been experiencing the after effects of smoking PCP-laced marijuana when he
killed Stephen Swan, 26, and Matthew Butler, 28, in June 2008 outside
their Garland studio. They said Broadnax may have also experienced
psychosis then and in jail because of PCP.

In jail, Broadnax reported having hallucinations and delusions but, at
times, denied any mental health problems, according to testimony.
Broadnax, 20, was treated with multiple medications for mental health
issues. But Broadnax's medical records also include a notation that he
could have been faking.

"I see blood coming out of the walls," jail psychiatrist Frank Lane said
Broadnax reported not long after he was arrested in June 2008.

Then in July 2008, Broadnax said, "I've got to talk to my attorney because
I've gotta use the insanity defense." In October 2008, he told the medical
staff that he felt like something was crawling on him.

Lane said that, at his last examination in June, Broadnax no longer
reported hallucinations or delusions.

Prosecutors suggested Broadnax may have been faking. They played a
recorded phone call he made from jail where he feigned chest pains to
leave his cell.

"I just wanted to get out of my cell and walk around a bit. I told them my
chest was hurting," Broadnax said as he laughed.

Jurors also heard that Broadnax had a troubled childhood. Relatives
testified that he moved around a lot, living with various relatives. He
also began smoking marijuana while he was in elementary school, according
to testimony.

His aunt, Teresa Thompson of Arkansas, testified that one of the relatives
he lived with, his mother's adoptive mother, hated him because he had a
white father. His father hasn't seen Broadnax since he was 2 months old.

"She just didn't like him," Thompson said. "She hated him."

Thompson said she took Broadnax in about four times over the years but
could not afford to let him live with her all the time. She said she loved
him like a son.

Thompson said she wishes the family could have done more to help Broadnax
over the years. "If someone else had tried to help, this may not have
happened," she said.

It is unclear why Broadnax did not live with his mother, Audry Kelly. She
also moved around a lot.

She testified briefly Monday. Her testimony is expected to resume today.

Broadnax's cousin, Demarius Cummings, 20, is also charged in the slayings,
but no trial date has been set.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Judge Sharon Keller could take the stand today in her disciplinary trial

A Texas judge who closed her court before a death row inmate could file an
appeal plans to testify at her ethics trial.

Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
could take the stand today.

Keller faces charges that could end her judicial career.

Nearly 2 years ago, she refused to keep the appeals court open past 5 p.m.
so lawyers for convicted killer Michael Wayne Richard could file a
last-minute appeal. Richard, who was convicted in the 1986 rape and murder
of a Houston-area nurse, was put to death hours later. The 56-year-old
Republican judge faces 5 counts of judicial misconduct.

On Monday, the 1st day of her disciplinary hearing, Keller spent most of
the day sitting quietly at the defense table.

State investigators opened the special hearing by accusing the judge of
"willfully" circumventing protocol by ordering the court closed at the
normal hour.

Keller's attorney, Chip Babcock, said that when the judge told a staffer
to close the court at 5 p.m., she was merely addressing an administrative
question about the business hours of the building.

He also said there was another judge still at the court who may have known
about Richard's pending appeal.

The judge overseeing the special hearing will submit a report to the state
Commission on Judicial Conduct. That commission could dismiss the charges,
issue a censure or suggest that Keller be removed from the bench.

Keller, a former Dallas County prosecutor who has served on the court
since 1994, is the highest-ranking judge in Texas to be put on trial by
the commission. She is part of the East Dallas family that operates the
popular Keller's drive-in hamburger restaurants.

On the morning of Richard's execution, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed
to review a Kentucky case over whether a 3-drug combination used in
executions the same lethal cocktail used in Texas caused
unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Richard's lawyers were preparing an appeal on those grounds but were late
in getting to the court, they said, because of computer problems.

That Keller told a staffer to close the court at 5 p.m. that night is not
in doubt. The issue is exactly what she meant.

Abel Acosta, a deputy clerk at the court, testified that he told Richard's
legal team he would not accept anything past 5 p.m. But he said he didn't
think Keller had shut the door on Richard, since he knew that the man's
lawyers could hand an appeal directly to a judge.

Acosta, however, didn't remind Richard's attorneys of that.

"We're not supposed to advise the people who are filing," he said.

Babcock, Keller's attorney, said Cheryl Johnson, the judge on duty the
night of Richard's execution, might have known that Richard's lawyers were
trying to file an appeal. According to Babcock, Ed Marty, the court's
court general counsel, said in a deposition that he told Johnson Richard's
attorneys were running late.

Johnson, the 1st witness called Monday, denied that such a conversation
took place.

"If I had known that they asked for more time, I would have granted it,"
Johnson said.

"It's an execution."

(source: Associated Press)


Fellow judge says Keller violated procedure in death row case—-Former
court counsel Ed Marty's statement could raise doubts.

The trial on misconduct charges against Sharon Keller, the state's top
criminal judge, began Monday with pointed criticism from one of Keller's
colleagues and one surprise revelation.

Judge Cheryl Johnson, called to testify by the prosecution, said Keller
violated Court of Criminal Appeals procedure in 2007 by unilaterally
denying defense lawyers the opportunity to file execution-day briefs after
5 p.m.

"She should have directed (the request to file late briefs) to me," said
Johnson, who had been assigned by rotation to be the only judge expected
to handle execution-day phone calls, faxes and filings from lawyers for
the inmate, Michael Richard.

"And I would have told them that they could file," Johnson said. "It's an
execution. They might be valid pleadings. I have no other way of knowing."

Johnson, however, said she didn't learn about the request for more time
until four days after Richard was executed an account contradicted in
parts of a witness deposition revealed Monday.

"I was upset by it. I was frustrated," she said. "And it made the court
look bad."

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates wrongdoing by
judges, has charged Keller with denying Richard his right to access the
court system and with bringing discredit upon on the judiciary. Keller's
trial on the potentially career-ending charges is expected to end by

Monday's surprise revelation came in opening statements when prosecution
and defense lawyers discussed the pretrial deposition of Ed Marty, who was
the court's general counsel when Richard was executed on Sept. 25, 2007.

Marty had called Keller at home about 4:45 p.m. that day to say Richard's
lawyers were asking for more time to file briefs. Keller refused.

Marty's questioning has been eagerly anticipated for what it would reveal
about that conversation. But when he was deposed Aug. 6 later than other
witnesses in the case because he now lives in Alabama Marty testified
that he also discussed the lawyers' request for additional time with one
other judge, Johnson, before 5 p.m.

The revelation is potentially significant, indicating that Keller did not
act alone to deny the request and that court rules had been followed.

But Johnson contradicted Marty's recollection, testifying that he came to
her office shortly before 5 p.m. "and told me nothing had come in," she
said, adding that he never mentioned a phone call from Richard's lawyers.

And Austin lawyer Mike McKetta, acting as prosecutor for the misconduct
charges against Keller, noted that Marty's recollection differed from his
previous testimony in the case.

"Especially watch, in the video deposition of Ed Marty, 3 stories
(develop) … and his candor that he really doesn't have a good memory,"
McKetta said.

Clips from Marty's deposition will be shown to the court later in the
trial. Keller also will testify, perhaps today.

Johnson recalled a hallway conversation with fellow Judges Paul Womack and
Tom Price about 5:30 p.m., with Marty standing about 6 feet away. Johnson
said the other judges voiced surprise that Richard's lawyers had neglected
to file briefs based on that morning's announcement that the U.S. Supreme
Court would examine whether lethal injection violated the Constitution.

McKetta: "Did Mr. Marty say anything?"

Johnson: "No, sir. I remember him having smiled. It struck me as being
very nervous."

But Chip Babcock, Keller's lawyer, said Marty's recollection that he
discussed the request for more time with Johnson was bolstered by a
personal memo Marty had written about a month after the execution.

"This is not a re-created memory," Babcock said.

Babcock added that Marty is an honorable man a 20-year U.S. Army veteran
who received a Purple Heart and 2 bronze stars for service in Vietnam.

"When 2 honorable people offer differing recollections, the court could
hardly find or recommend that Judge Keller be removed from office," he

Monday's hearing began with opening statements laying out the
prosecution's and defense's cases. McKetta

told District Judge David Berchelmann, who is overseeing Keller's trial,
that evidence will show that Keller intentionally circumvented the court's
execution-day procedures in a misuse of judicial power.

Babcock said Keller's actions did not prevent a late filing by Richard's
lawyers because appellate rules allow any of the court's 9 judges and the
general counsel to accept late filings.

"There were 11 doors available to (Texas Defender Service). They knocked
on only one" by calling the deputy clerk and nobody else, Babcock said.

"The evidence is largely undisputed that Judge Keller is honorable,
competent and a popularly elected judge who believes in and follows the
rule of law," Babcock said.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)


US judge 'ignored death row plea' —- Richards was executed hours after
Judge Keller allegedly closed the court

A prominent judge in Texas has gone on trial accused of refusing to let
lawyers for a convicted murderer on death row lodge a last-minute appeal.

Sharon Keller is charged with professional misconduct.

The prisoner, Michael Wayne Richard, was put to death hours after she
allegedly shut the court, despite being told an appeal was imminent.

Half of all executions in the US last year were in Texas where critics
have dubbed Judge Keller "Sharon Killer".

She is known for her tough stance on the death penalty.

Just hours before his scheduled execution in September 2007, lawyers for
Richard tried to lodge an appeal with Judge Keller, the presiding judge of
the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Their efforts were delayed by computer glitches and when they phoned the
court to request extra time, they say they were told court closes at 5pm.

Richard, convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering a woman 20 years
ago, was put to death by lethal injection some three hours later. He
became the 26th person to be executed in Texas that year.


His lawyers allege that Judge Keller deliberately ordered the courthouse
to close at 5pm, knowing a last-minute appeal was imminent.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct said the judge had engaged in
"wilful or persistent conduct that cast public discredit on the

Judge Keller's lawyers say she meant that the court building closed at
that time, but that there was an after-hours judge on duty who would have
accepted the appeal.

"This whole case is about the confusion between the word 'court' and
'clerk'," Chip Babcock said, adding: "There is no question the clerk's
office closes at 5pm. That does not mean there aren't after-hours

It is common practice to keep the courthouse open in death penalty cases.

State prosecutors have charged Judge Keller with five counts of
professional misconduct.

If found guilty, she could lose her position on the State Appeals Court, a
demotion that could end her career.

(source: BBC News)


Execution of convicted serial killer David Leonard Wood approaches

ABC-7 will revisit one of the most gripping episodes in El Paso history in
the days leading up to the execution of convicted serial killer David
Leonard Wood, which is scheduled for Thursday in Huntsville, Texas.

In the summer of 1987, several girls and young women disappeared in
Northeast El Paso. Six of them were found just months later, buried in
shallow graves in the Northeast El Paso desert. Wood, convicted and
sentenced to death by lethal injection in 1992, became known as El Paso's
Desert Killer.

Wood has adamantly maintained his innocence for 2 decades.

Reporter Darren Hunt and photojournalist Miguel Mendez will travel to
Huntsville to be there as the victims' families seek closure. Darren Hunt
will attend the execution as a witness Thursday.

Wood's execution will also be the subject of ABC-7 Xtra at 10:35 p.m. On
Sunday. John Guerrero, a former El Paso Police Department homicide
detective who investigated the case, and Joe Spencer, a defense attorney
who opposes the death penalty, will be the guests.

(source: KVIA news)