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August 22 2009 | UNITED STATES

USA/Texas

M.W.Richard was put to death because it was too late to plead, The judge who refused the appeal now on trial for misconduct.

 
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Corriere della sera on-line

Sharon Keller, detta "Killer" rifiutò l'ultimo appello di un condannato rispettando alla lettera l'orario d'ufficio

 MILANO - «Non c'è tempo. Chiudiamo alle cinque». Il giudice texano Sharon Keller (ora soprannominata «Sharon Killer» dai suoi detrattori) non ci pensò due volte. Era il settembre del 2007 quando rifiutò l'appello in extremis di un condannato a morte per far rispettare alla lettera l'orario di ufficio. Per questo è ora sotto processo in uno dei casi più gravi di «giustizia sbagliata» nella storia del suo Stato. La donna è accusata di cattiva condotta per aver deliberatamente ordinato la chiusura degli uffici pur sapendo che gli avvocati dell’imputato attendevano impazientemente di sottoporre i documenti per avviare il ricorso.

 RISCHIA DI ESSERE RADIATA - Lunedì la Keller è comparsa davanti a una commissione statale incaricata di valutare la condotta dei giudici. Rischia di essere radiata dalla magistratura per non aver rispettato i diritti di un condannato a morte. Il caso risale al settembre del 2007. E riguarda Michael Wayne Richard, 49enne condannato per stupro e omicidio. I legali dell'uomo cercarono la mattina stessa del giorno in cui era stata fissata l’esecuzione, il 25 settembre del 2007, di fermare la condanna appellandosi alla procedura con cui è condotta l’iniezione letale. Quella stessa mattina infatti la Corte Suprema degli Stati Uniti aveva deciso di valutare se quel metodo di esecuzione rappresentasse una forma di punizione inusuale e crudele e fosse pertanto incostituzionale. La Keller quel giorno aveva gli operai in casa e lasciò il lavoro prima della fine dell'orario prestabilito. Gli avvocati di Richard, approfittando della finestra aperta dalla Corte Suprema, si affrettarono a fare ricorso ma ebbero problemi al computer. Quando finalmente alle 16:45 riuscirono a far arrivare la pratica in tribunale chiedendo il rinvio dell'esecuzione, non ci fu nulla da fare. «Si chiude alle 17», si sentirono rispondere.

 ESECUZIONE E PROTESTE - Alle 20:23 di quella stessa sera fu eseguita la condanna a morte di Richard. Di lì a poco lo stato del Texas dichiarò una moratoria delle esecuzioni: il 49enne fu l'ultimo condannato messo a morte prima dell'inizio della moratoria. La vicenda all'epoca suscitò proteste negli Usa e titoli sui giornali di mezzo mondo. Nonostante abbia sempre respinto le accuse la giudice è da allora al centro di violentissime critiche e le associazioni che si battono contro la pena di morte l’hanno soprannominata «Sharon Killer», storpiando il suo cognome. «Se avessi saputo che avevano chiesto più tempo lo avrei concesso - ha detto più volte la donna -. Si tratta di un’esecuzione». La donna è considerata uno dei giudici più inclini alla pena capitale ed è il più alto magistrato messo sotto accusa da 15 anni a questa parte. Il Texas registra ancora oggi il più affollato braccio della morte di tutti gli Stati Uniti.

 

Associated Press

Texas judge: Lawyers had time for death-row appeal

 A Texas judge who closed her court before a death row inmate's last-minute appeal was ready says the man's lawyers had time that day to act.

 Judge Sharon Keller, who is on trial for misconduct, is back on the witness stand.

 Keller said Wednesday that it's legitimate to ask why lawyers for convicted killer Michael Wayne Richard (ruh-SHARD') "had from 9:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night and did nothing."

 She refused to keep the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals open past 5 p.m., when Richard's lawyers asked for more time to file their rushed appeal. He was executed hours later.

 Keller's lawyers have said that Richard's lawyers could have handed an appeal directly to a judge, and that another judge was still on duty that night.

 The Independent

Killer put to death after judge shut doors 'at 5'

 An inmate on death row who tried to file a last-minute appeal against his execution in Texas was told: "We close at 5."

 Too late to plead, Michael Wayne Richard was put to death by lethal injection. Now the judge who refused to take his appeal is on trial for judicial misconduct.

 Judge Sharon Keller, dubbed "Sharon Killer" for her tough line on crime, could be removed as presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

 The case has become a focus for criticism of the death penalty in America.

 Judge Keller left work early on September 25, 2007 to meet a repair worker at her home. At about 4.45pm she received a phone call from court to ask if the clerk's office could stay open late. She said no.

 Rindy Fox, a legal secretary for the Texas Defender Service, representing Richard, testified that she had 3 telephone conversations with the court's deputy clerk, Abel Acosta.

 At 4.40, Ms Fox called to say that the defence lawyers were having computer problems and asked for more time to file the appeal. Mr Acosta said that he would check.

 8 minutes later he called Ms Fox and said "something to the effect that I was told to tell you that we close at 5".

 Ms Fox protested. Mr Acosta said that he would call her back if there was any change in the decision to close the court, but never did.

 Executed

 At 5.56pm, Ms Fox called the court to say that the 31-page appeal was printed and ready to lodge with the court.

 "I said, 'Abel I got it ready to file, I'm coming down'. He said, 'Don't bother, we're closed'," Ms Fox testified.

 Richard, who was convicted of the rape and murder in 1986 of a nurse and mother of seven in Houston, was executed at 8.23pm.

 He was the 405th prisoner put to death in Texas, America's busiest death-penalty state, since 1982.

 The defence team had sought to file the appeal in response to a decision by the US Supreme Court that morning to review execution by a lethal injection of a 3-drug cocktail to determine whether it violated the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment".

 The review put executions on hold across America for more than 6 months before the technique was upheld.

 Judge Keller (56), a Republican appointee who has served at the court since 1994, says that she was never given a reason for the request to keep the court open.

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