[Guest post by DRJ]
I’m a stickler for law and order but not this kind.
From the Dallas Examiner:
“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 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.”
Richards’ attorneys claim they needed extra time due to computer problems that delayed the printing of the motion. In her response, Judge Keller noted that 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.”
While the U.S. Supreme Court considered and denied Richards’ appeal, at least one legal analyst has stated that filing a state appeal might have resulted in the Supreme Court issuing a stay of execution.