Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Been thinking a bit about Sharon Keller's trial.

While many abolitionists refer to her as Killer Keller and see her as complicit in whole bunches of murders from death row in Texas, and while there is an accusation, essentially correct, that her closing the courthouse led to the execution of Michael Wayne Richards, and while she's become something of a poster child for what's wrong with the way we pursue the death penalty, all of that is essentially a side issue. She's not charged with murder. It's an ethics trial, not a criminal one. The charges against her, you may recall, are about judicial misconduct.

So what's she doing (OK, her lawyer, but we always say it's the client) trying to show that David Dow, lead counsel for Richards, had alternatives, that there were other ways he could have filed, that he was incompetent, that there was no good cause for a late filing? Is any of that relevant?

It's tangentially relevant to the charge that she brought disrepute on the court, since nobody would have known about her other improper acts if Dow had successfully filed his motion. But the improper acts (if they were improper, I hate to prejudge, OK, just this once, they were) would still have occurred. What else? Oh, yeah, blow smoke, blame the victim, you know, the sort of thing she gets all huffy about when criminal defendants and their lawyers do it.

But this is she. Different rules apply (as in her insistence that she's entitled to appointed counsel of her choice at counsel's ordinary rate of pay, see Bennett's post here).

It's said that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged and a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested. There's a certain truth to that, and if it applied here, we'd expect that Judge Keller would have learned something about humility and a system that grinds people up too often without regard to fairness and accuracy, a system where the presumption of innocence is little more than a fairy tale fiction, a system she has helped to perpetuate.

But I think not. Her defense is noblesse oblige, and "Let them eat cake," and "Off with their heads." And it's SODDI, and "The bitch deserved it," and "Hey, I'm the victim here." In passing, she claims she did no wrong, though she conceded on the stand yesterday that it was a close call.

If it weren't so serious, it would be funny.

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