Glad to see national coverage on ABC News about Judge Sharon Killer’s refusal to keep the Court of Criminal Appeals open an extra 20 minutes to allow defense lawyers, who were apparently having computer/technical difficulties, to file a stay of execution.
Some quick background. The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case, Baze v. Rees, to decide whether lethal injection is a constitutionally permissible execution method. The legal issues get a little more complicated than that actually, but suffice it to say that this isn’t some crackpot defense lawyer theory: the American Medical Association’s code of ethics prohibits its members from participating in lethal injections. And there is ample evidence to show that without proper medical attention, lethal injection executions run a high risk of being botched.
Botched execution methods? Potential for Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment appeals? Apparently SCOTUS wants to take a look at the issue.
So, many states are wisely deciding to stay executions using this method until the Supremes come to a decision. After all, it’ll be a little hard to ‘undo’ the punishment, if SCOTUS rules for the defense.
Back to Judge Killer. When Michael Richard’s lawyers called to alert the court that they were having problems getting to the court by 5 p.m., they were told, essentially, “tough s**t”. No extra hour, not even an extra minute to file the appeal. Richard’s lawyers wanted the stay based on the Baze case. And they would have eventually gotten it.
How do we know? Well, the US Supreme Court ordered Texas to halt an execution two days later, based on the same reason for appeal.
What does Judge Killer have to say about it?
“You’re asking me whether something different would have happened if we had stayed open,” Keller said, “and I think the question ought to be why didn’t they file something on time? They had all day.”
Let me first address the .000001% of what she said that isn’t ridiculous.
Yes, lawyers for defendants on death row routinely try to time their appeals to be last minute… because several last minute stays can add life span for the client (as opposed to filing each petition as early as possible). And while I don’t handle death penalty appeals, I think those who do should learn from this: have everything ready days or weeks in advance, and then park outside the court with all the necessary paperwork to run in at the last minute, so to avoid last minute ‘technical difficulties’.
Oddly though, while being .000001% ‘correct’, Judge Killer manages to also be 100% wrong.
No, they didn’t have “all day” as they should. Last time I checked, 5:20 p.m. today is still… today.