A judge nicknamed "Killer Keller" by death penalty opponents after she ordered her court shut while lawyers for a death row inmate tried to file a last-minute appeal is fighting to keep her job in one of several statewide races on the Texas ballot Tuesday.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller faced discipline in 2010 for closing the court at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2007. Lawyers for condemned killer Michael Richard said they were blocked from filing a last-minute appeal, and he was executed that night for the rape and slaying of a Houston-area nurse.
She faces defense attorney Keith Hampton, a Democrat who is trying to win a six-year term on the Court of Criminal Appeals and break the GOP's hold on the state's highest court for criminal cases.
Keller, first elected in 1994, faced removal from the bench over the court's closure. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct instead issued one of the least severe sanctions, a "public warning," which later was tossed on appeal.
Keller also has appealed a $100,000 fine _ the largest in Texas Ethics Commission history _ for not disclosing more than $2 million in property and income on her personal financial statements.
"2 Top Texas judges on ballot fight ethics fines, is another AP report, via the Stamford Advocate. It's written by Jim Vertuno.
Two of Texas' top judges have been able to put off paying huge ethics fines for more than two years, and neither case stands to be resolved before Election Day when both are on the ballot for new six-year terms.
The $100,000 fine in 2010 against Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, and the $29,000 fine levied against state Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht in 2008 rank among the largest in state history.
Both Republicans have appealed the fines and the cases have dragged on the point where court watchdogs and political opponents are asking if state ethics laws are truly a deterrent.
"It reeks," said Alex Winslow, director of Texas Watch, which monitors the state Supreme Court and filed the original ethics complaint against Hecht. "You've got a large fine that was intended to send a message. (The delay) causes real questions about the legitimacy of the process."
Yesterday's Wichita Falls Times Record News reported, "Ex-Wichitan seeks criminal appeals seat
Austin lawyer promotes integrity," by Alyssa Johnston.
A former Wichitan decided to run against incumbent Judge Sharon Keller for her seat in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin this election cycle.
The TCCA is the highest court of appeals for criminal cases in Texas and consists of a presiding judge and eight judges.
Living in Austin, Keith Hampton said that he is proud of his roots and that he hopes to restore integrity as presiding judge. Hampton graduated from Burkburnett High School after attending Barwise Junior High and Rider High.
After graduating, he attended Midwestern State University before moving to Austin and attending the University of Texas at Austin.
Hampton said he's been an attorney since 1989 and has a lot to offer. He said he loves the court and worked for Judge Sam Houston Clinton in the early '90s.
Keller was elected to the TCCA in 1994 and was elected as presiding judge in 2000. In 2006, Keller was elected to another six-year term, which expires this year.
Keller is well-known for an issue in 2007 where Michael Wayne Richard was executed because Keller allegedly did not allow the attorney to file documents postponing his execution.
Earlier coverage of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals election begins at the link.