If you thought that the imperial hubris of Texas Republicans stopped at the front drive of the White House, this will probably make your blood boil:
Four words -- "We close at 5" -- enforced by Texas judge Sharon Keller led to the almost immediate execution of convicted murderer Michael Richard.You know, it's not like Michael Richard was late with his homework, or had an appointment to renew his driver's license...his life was on the line!
Three hours after Keller refused to keep her courthouse open past closing time to receive the condemned killer's request to stay his execution, Richard was executed.
OK, so why was Richard's appeal late?
Richard's attorney's computer broke down, and when they called the courthouse asking for a little more time, just 20 minutes more, Judge Keller ordered the court clerk not to wait for the appeal that could have at least temporarily stopped his execution.Twenty minutes. Just twenty minutes. Pizza delivery time.
I'm sure Judge Keller had to rush home to watch...Judge Judy? Re-runs of Law and Order? Bob The Builder?
Fortunately, it seems cooler heads are, well, getting fired up:
After the execution, prominent defense attorneys from across Texas signed an official complaint against Keller, asking the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to disciplined or fire her.Keller has a history of putting an express lane into Death Row in Texas:
[...]It's not just the attorneys complaining. In a rare development, other judges on the appeals court -- three of whom stayed late in the courthouse waiting to rule on Richard's motion -- have criticized Keller's decision.
Judge Cheryl Johnson, who was expecting to rule on the case, told the Austin American-Statesman she was dismayed by Keller's decision. "And I was angry," she told the paper. "If I'm in charge of the execution, I ought to have known about those things … I mean this is a death."
• Keller was in the court majority that allowed the 2003 execution of Leonard Rojas to go forward despite a showing that his lawyer had just two years of experience, had his law license suspended three times and had missed a deadline for federal appeals because of bipolar disorder...saying the lawyer only needed to be competent when appointed. She said the fact the Bar had probated the lawyer's suspensions showed that the Bar "still found counsel to be competent to practice law."In that last case, Keller decided that Fierro could have been convicted on the basis of a co-defendant's testimony.
• Prior to the Richard execution, the biggest controversy of her tenure on the court came when Keller wrote an opinion saying DNA evidence did not prove convicted rapist Roy Criner was innocent even though the semen in his alleged victim was not his. Keller said Criner could have worn a condom during the rape, a theory that was not raised by the prosecution in his trial.
On the PBS program Frontline, Keller was asked how Criner could prove his innocence. She replied: "I don't know."
• In 1996, Keller wrote an opinion that death row inmate Cesar Fierro received a fair trial despite the fact his confession was coerced by threats that Mexican police would torture his parents. After learning of the coerced confession, the prosecutor and judge in the case called for Fierro to receive a new trial.
"We conclude that the applicant's due process rights were violated," Keller wrote for the court. "But, because we conclude that the error was harmless, we deny relief."
You read that correctly: a man died based on hearsay evidence.
A few days ago, at the end of their Fall pledge drive, Free Speech TV broadcast a recent "Keynote" with author Michael Parenti (Real Player only, sorry folks), in which he lays out a case for an imperial America...not just abroad, but internally, where an elite ruling (not governing) class grabs all available resources, leaving the working and middle classes in virtual serfdom, unable to capture any significant property or power for themselves, all in the name of the US Constitution.
You can get a taste of this case in this article.
There is, undoubtedly, in this country a growing and burgeoning elite who believe that privilege and rank grant access to power above and beyond what you might attain. They have theirs, its up to you to get yours, Jack.
Power and wealth are not a zero sum game, however. Never are. When one person grabs power, someone else must give it up. Same with wealth, despite the economic theory that capital creates more capital. It doesn't. It merely converts resources and labor into more capital, but that depletes resources and-- dare I say it?-- exploits labor.
Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I don't have that big a problem with that provided there's an equality or at least an equivalence in the dynamic.
This is supposed to be the role of government: a counter-balance to the predations and exploitations of corporations, run by human beings who are as flawed and id-driven as the local serial killer. They just wear a white collar.
However, the most successful con in American history has been perpetrated upon us in the past sixty years: government's role as protector of innocents has been warped into this bizarre dual-exploitative tag-team match, with citizens on one side, and government and corporations on the other.
Think about the way the Bush administration has emasculated any regulatory oversight in the Federal government by installing corporate lobbyists into positions of power over the industries they lobbied for, and you'll see my point.
It's safe to say the first to pick up on this new paradigm were the Republicans, specifically the Reagan administration, who apparently never met a lobbyist with a checkbook it didn't like. After all, the removal of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for millions and millions of dollars to flow from corporate coffers into politicians' pockets, with no responsible opposing viewpoint to be found...because they couldn't afford commercial air time.
Our last hope, short of revolution in the streets, is the Democratic party, but even there, the taint of corporate money and greed fills the air, and asking the Democrats to govern without the power of business behind them is like asking you or I to only see out of one eye, despite having two perfectly good ones at our disposal.
Still, we have to insist. We have to start holding feet to the fire. We have to start making sure that, at all levels of government, people come first. Starting with local judges like Sharon Keller.
UPDATE: Tell Texas what you think about this outrageous judge.