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Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

State Bar investigating Charles Sebesta

Good. The State Bar of Texas has opened an investigation into Charles Sebesta, the former Burleson County District Attorney who prosecuted death row exoneree Anthony Graves. The organization that oversees lawyers is investigating alleged professional misconduct by Sebesta, which, if proven, could result in his disbarment. The investigation was prompted by a complaint that Graves […]

Too old for death

Fascinating story about Texas’ oldest inmate on death row. He’s been there for 36 years. Two weeks after he turned 40, Jack Harry Smith showed no signs of letting middle age slow him down. So on the first Saturday in January, he put on a ski mask, grabbed his pistol and a buddy, and went […]

Charles Sebesta needs to be held accountable

Amen to this. Former Texas death row inmate Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years behind bars before he was exonerated in the bloody 1992 slaying of a Somerville grandmother, her daughter and four grandchildren, is seeking justice against the man who put him there. In 2006, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ […]

Review ordered for Jones allegations

Moving forward. Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court formally ordered on Wednesday that a rare public judicial misconduct complaint against 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones be reviewed by officials in a different circuit — one based in the nation’s capital. “I have selected the Judicial Council of the […]

Complaints filed against federal judge Edith Jones

This is a potential blockbuster. A broad coalition of groups — including an agency funded by the Mexican government (the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program), various civil rights organizations, legal ethics experts, and law professors — filed the complaint against 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones, who in October relinquished her title […]

Remake the Fifth Circuit!

Yes, please. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is widely viewed as one of the nation’s most conservative federal appellate courts, but President Barack Obama could get a chance to change that perception in his second term. Ten of the 15 active judges serving on the New Orleans-based court were nominated by Republican presidents. […]

Hampton going after Keller

I wish him the best of luck. The ethics behind Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller’s decision to shut the doors on a death penalty appeal are resurfacing as her opponent launches a contentious campaign against her. Democratic defense lawyer Keith Hampton is striking out at Keller, a Dallas resident who’s held the […]

Erica Lee: How to Keep a First Grader Off Death Row

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks. It is the beginning of the school year and excitement is in the air. Children are looking for their classmates in the hall. Parents are tucking in shoelaces and zipping backpacks. Teachers are taking one last […]

The exoneration that wasn’t

I don’t know about you, but I’d forgotten about this. A Texas judge who reviewed the controversial 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham planned to posthumously exonerate the father who was put to death for killing his three daughters in a house fire. Scientific experts who debunked the arson evidence used against Willingham at his […]

Why better eyewitness ID procedures matter

Because bad eyewitness ID procedures can lead to the wrong people being executed. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, stopped short of claiming Texas wrongfully executed suspect Carlos DeLuna for the February 1983 murder of store clerk Wanda Lopez. Gallego, however, said the way Corpus Christi police handled the suspect’s identification […]

Andrea Yates, ten years later

It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Andrea Yates drowned her children in their bathtub. I’ve blogged about her many times since first posting about her trial and conviction, which was later overturned on the grounds that an expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Park Dietz, gave false testimony at her trial; […]

Willingham documentary

From the Trib: As you’re reading this, Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr. are putting the finishing touches onIncendiary, a new documentary about theCameron Todd Willingham case that focuses almost entirely on forensics — on the science behind arson investigations like the one that led to the Corsicana man’s arrest, conviction and execution following the […]

An answer in the Claude Jones case

Back in June, I noted the case of Claude Jones, who had been executed in 2000 for a murder committed in 1990. The main piece of evidence used to convict him was a single strand of hair that a forensic expert who examined it under a microscope testified belonged to Jones. It was not subjected […]

It’s official, Keller skates

Can’t say I’m surprised. Bitterly disappointed, but not surprised. A special court of review on Monday declined to reconsider a decision to void an ethics rebuke given to Sharon Keller for her role in a botched execution-day appeal, apparently ending the case against Texas’ top criminal judge. Prosecutors had argued that the special court mistakenly […]

Maybe we’re not on the hook for Keller’s legal fees after all

Well, at least it’s a small consolation. Clearing up confusion in its dismissal of an ethics rebuke against Judge Sharon Keller, a special court of review has issued an order that no longer makes taxpayers liable for Keller’s legal costs. The court’s original Oct. 11 order said Keller could recoup legal costs from the State […]

Maybe Keller hasn’t gotten away with it just yet

Could there possibly be some accountability in this world? [The state Commission on Judicial Conduct]‘s executive director, Seana Willing, asked the panel to reconsider its decision to dismiss the case, which stemmed from Keller’s actions on the day Michael Wayne Richard was executed in 2007. The three-judge panel had ruled that because the commission had […]

Keller takes a victory lap

She’s still blaming others and lying about the facts. Texas’ top criminal judge said Tuesday that she feels vindicated that a special court dismissed a public reprimand of her for closing her court and preventing lawyers from filing a last-minute appeal hours before their client was executed. “What happened to me shouldn’t happen to any […]

Appeals court suspends Willingham court inquiry

This happened late last week. An Austin appeals court has ordered Judge Charlie Baird to halt his inquiry into whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed in 2004 and whether there is probable cause that state officials committed a crime in their handling of Willingham’s case prior to his execution. The Austin American-Statesman obtained an […]

Keller gets away with it

I’m thoroughly disgusted. A special court of review Monday threw out an ethics rebuke given to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller for closing the Court of Criminal Appeals at 5 p.m. despite knowing that lawyers wanted to file an appeal for an inmate facing imminent execution in 2007. [...] Bringing the high-profile case to a swift […]

Willingham gets another day in court

Interesting. State District Judge Charlie Baird said Monday that he would hold a hearing in his Travis County courtroom next week to determine whether Texas wrongly executed Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted of murdering his three young children by setting fire to his Corsicana home in 1991. Baird said in an e-mail that a man who […]

Keller’s appeal denied by Supremes

Poor baby. The Texas Supreme Court this morning denied Judge Sharon Keller’s request to throw out last month’s public rebuke for her role in a botched 2007 death row appeal. Later today, Keller’s lawyers are expected to file a separate appeal challenging the “public warning” given by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. That appeal […]

SCJC contests Keller’s appeal

When last we met, Sharon Keller had appealed the curious “warning” she received from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Commission had acted “lawlessly” by issuing that particular sanction. The Commission has now fired back, saying essentially that it’s Keller who has violated protocol: [I]nstead of appealing the […]

Keller appeals to Supreme Court

She’s still going for full vindication. Because as far as she’s concerned, she did nothing wrong. [I]n a Supreme Court petition filed Thursday, Keller argued that the commission acted in a “lawless” manner because the Texas Constitution forbids it to issue such a warning. “The order violates the constitution and is void. At the very […]

What is this “warning” of which you speak?

I’m glad to see that someone is asking questions about the warning that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct handed down to Sharon Keller. Seana Willing, the commission’s examiner, contends in an e-mail that the order is based on a rule that does not comport with the Texas Constitution. As examiner in judicial misconduct cases, […]

“Warning” versus “reprimand”

Rick Casey answers a question that has been bugging me about the State Commission on Judicial Conduct ruling that issued a “public warning” to Sharon Keller. A majority of the panel agreed that Keller needed to be sanctioned for ignoring the procedures she admitted to knowing. Because of the poor performance of Richard’s lawyers and […]

Keller gets “public warning” from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct

No, I don’t know what a “public warning” is, either. It’s the first time I’ve heard that phrase. But it’s what the Trib says Sharon Keller got as her “punishment” from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. What it sounds like to me is something less than a censure, which says to me they wimped […]

The Keller hearings

The current phase of the Sharon Keller saga may end soon. Sharon Keller, fighting to keep her job as the state’s top criminal court judge, should know her fate soon. After a five-hour hearing Friday, members of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct met privately to begin deliberating charges that in 2007 Keller improperly closed […]

Keller hearing today

Today is the day for the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to have its hearing on the Sharon Keller case and to decide what to do with the findings of the Special Master. Today, prosecutors plan to argue that [Special Master David] Berchelmann’s findings were misguided and that the evidence showed Keller failed to perform […]

Forensic Science Commission finally gets back to Willingham case

It’s a start, but it’s not much more than that. Meeting for the first time since January, the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission voted to obtain and review the complete transcript of the capital murder trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting the December 1991 Corsicana house fire in which […]

SCOTUS officially endorses hot judge on prosecutor action

I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but I’m not. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from Charles Dean Hood, a Texas death row inmate who complained that he was denied a fair trial because his trial judge and prosecutor had engaged in a secret years-long affair. Announced without comment […]

Next Keller hearing June 18

Mark your calendars. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct set a June 18 hearing in the continuing case of Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Keller was accused of bringing “public discredit” to the judiciary by not accepting a last-minute appeal from death-row inmate Michael Wayne Richard before his 2007 […]

Forensic Science Commission to finally get back to Willingham case

It’s sure taken them long enough. After months of delay and internal upheaval, the revamped Texas Forensic Science Commission is poised to reopen discussion of the Cameron Todd Willingham case when it meets April 23 in Irving. Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani, appointed to the panel in December, is likely to play a central […]

Skinner gets reprieve from SCOTUS

Good. The U.S. Supreme Court today stayed the execution of capital killer Henry Skinner one hour before he was to be put to death for the 1993 murders of his Pampa girlfriend and her two adult sons. The court halted the execution to allow time to consider an appeals court’s rejection of Skinner’s civil rights […]

Hank Skinner

We’re all familiar with the Todd Willingham case and the possibility that he was an innocent man, but there’s another inmate scheduled for execution this week in which similar questions about innocence have been raised. The seven-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles today unanimously rejected death-row inmate Hank Skinner‘s request for a reprieve from […]