[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Oct 24 23:50:29 CDT 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE----ACLU and Texas Innocence Network Appeal Innocent
Man's Death Sentence
At a hearing today before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the
American Civil Liberties Union and the Texas Innocence Network (TIN)
argued that death row inmate Max Soffar was unfairly prevented from
proving his innocence at his second trial in 2006. The groups hope to
overturn Soffar's conviction in the capital murder case of 4 victims shot
during an armed robbery in a Houston bowling alley in 1980. In 1981,
Soffar was convicted and sentenced to death, but a federal court
overturned his conviction in 2004 because his trial lawyers failed to
argue that Soffar's confession contradicted the account of the sole
surviving witness and other reliable evidence in the case. The state of
Texas retried Soffar last year and he was again convicted and sentenced to
"This case is a textbook example of a miscarriage of justice," said John
Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project. "From a false
confession to two unfair trials and death sentences, the problems with Max
Soffar's case are gravely troubling. We must not allow the state of Texas
to execute an innocent man."
The ACLU and TIN argued that Soffar was denied the constitutional right to
defend himself because Soffar's trial judge refused to admit evidence that
another man confessed to committing the murders. This man, Paul Reid,
formerly of Houston, also committed a series of highly similar
robbery-murders and now awaits execution on Tennessee's death row. A
photograph of Reid, taken in Houston nine days after the bowling alley
incident, strongly resembles the police's composite sketch based on the
description of the crime's sole witness.
The ACLU and TIN also charged that Soffar was denied his constitutional
rights when, during his second trial, the court refused to allow him to
show that media reports of the crime contained all of the details in his
false confession. The prosecution claimed that these details-although
broadcast throughout Texas-could only be known by the person responsible
for the crime.
Soffar was known by the police in 1980 as an unreliable and feeble-minded
informant who often traded information for police assistance or money.
Shortly after the bowling alley crimes took place, Soffar fingered his
friend, Latt Bloomfied, as the perpetrator. Soffar also told police that
he and Bloomfield had burglarized the same bowling alley the night before
the incident - a crime the press reported as potentially related to the
robbery-murders. The police soon learned that Soffar's confession to the
burglary was false and arrested others for that crime; yet even after
Soffar's first false confession, law enforcement continued to rely on
another confession of his that implicated Soffar and Bloomfield in the
robbery-murders. After his initial arrest, Bloomfield was quickly
releasedand has never faced charges for the crime.
"Max Soffar has been on Texas's death row for almost 3 decades for a crime
he did not commit," said David Dow, Head of the Texas Innocence Network
and one of Soffar's attorneys. "We urge the court to do the right thing
and strike down Mr. Soffar's wrongful conviction. Too many innocent people
have been executed as a result of mistakes in the system. The risk of
executing an innocent man is unacceptable in a just society."
John Holdridge added, "False confessions are far more common than the
public realizes. According to the Innocence Project, innocent defendants
made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pleaded
guilty in more than 25% of DNA exoneration cases."
More information on Max Soffar's case is available at:
Lawyers on this case are Holdridge and Brian Stull of the ACLU Capital
Punishment Project and Dow and Jared Tyler of the Texas Innocence Network.
(source: Common Dreams)
We all sat, separate but together, watching the clock and waiting to be
summoned. Would-be witnesses were confined to an office; the warden and
the guards gathered not far from the gurney; the victims' family was in a
meeting room, the killer's friends were sequestered by the Coke machines.
The anonymous executioner waited inside the prison to take his position
behind the death chamber's 2-way mirror. The condemned was alone in his
Four hundred and five times in the past 25 years, the call had come for
all to assemble and enter the Texas death chamber. The ritual had nearly
always ended the same way--the dead in a hearse pulling away from
Huntsville's old brick prison, the living left in search of a stiff drink.
On this night, however, the evening would end with a beginning, with what
appears to be the start of a nationwide moratorium on execution. Even in
When the Supreme Court agreed on September 25 to consider whether lethal
injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, it triggered a brand
new avenue of appeal for inmates on death row. Most states quickly decided
to hold off on executions until the Court reaches a decision.
But in Texas, the free world's epicenter of execution, the state vowed to
press on, sticking to its plan to execute at least 4 men in September.
I was on hand in Huntsville because I believed that after more than 20
years of covering capital punishment, I should follow the system to the
bitter end, to the execution itself. I'd arrived at the prison complex at
4:30, an hour and a half before I was to witness the state-ordered demise
of Carlton Turner. A 28-year-old high school dropout who coldly shot to
death his adoptive parents 9 years ago, Turner had stuffed his parents'
bodies in the garage and was using their car and credit cards when police
He spent 9 years on death row before being brought to Huntsville to be
The prison here is referred to as The Walls, an apt name for the massive
brick fortress, which stands forbiddingly just off the city's quaint
downtown, like a monster in a cottage backyard. Ancient and imposing, it
looks like the kind of place where someone could get killed.
The opposite is true of the prison's administrative offices. It would be
easy to mistake the place for some kind of bland marketing distribution
center. Dilbert would feel at home here amid the cubicles.
A few windows and doors are decorated with pictures of newborns, Halloween
posters or funny notes. Much of the office is bare. The real business of
this business is buried, hidden inside the stacks of paper and digital
databases that indicate where an inmate will be housed, what he will be
fed, whether or when he will be put to death.
Proponents of Texas's tough system have known for years about the growing
concern among the faint of heart elsewhere over whether the condemned
suffered when killed with chemicals or whether the training of the team
inserting the I-V was adequate, whether the dosage was correct or even
whether the inmate died slowly or swiftly. That didn't matter in Texas.
Most other states handle only a few executions a year and sputter along,
regularly stopping to tweak and tinker with the machinery of death. Texas
is in a league of its own.
Of the 1,099 people executed in the United States since 1976, 405 of them
took their last breath on a gurney in Texas. The state's death chamber
functions as a magnificently efficient engine. With an execution every
couple of weeks, sometimes several a month, the Texas system is slick and
smooth, fine-tuned and fast.
Execution teams at Huntsville are so well trained and so practiced that
other states regularly came here to see how it's done. In at least one
case, a Texas team was hired to work an out-of-state execution.
There is an odd, almost Orwellian process at play in this capital
punishment capitol that keeps the people who do this work removed from it.
You can hear it in the execution etiquette that defines conversations. No
one here refers to witnessing an execution; instead people talk about
"witnessing." The doctor doesn't pronounce the inmate dead; the doctor
But then Huntsville prison employees aren't participating in the
state-ordered homicide of a human being; they're "working late." One
longtime warden was known for initiating the short walk with an inmate to
the death chamber by saying, "It's time to go to the next room."
People who work at the prison, many of whom have witnessed executions by
the dozens, usually won't acknowledge, even when pressed, the actual
number they have taken part in. That is considered bad form, at least
until the person retires and they count up the final tally.
Then the numbers can be staggering.
Larry Fitzgerald, the prison system's now-retired public information
officer, took part in 219 executions, more than double the number that
have taken place in any state outside Texas. He admits that he
occasionally needed "to crawl into a bottle of scotch" after some of the
executions, particularly the days when 2 people were put to death. "Those
2-a-days were tough," he told me. "Once they scheduled 3 in 1 day, and we
were more relieved than the inmate when the last one was canceled."
Fitzgerald witnessed some of the most infamous executions and saw
firsthand some of the system's occasional complications. He recalls a
watching a "blowout" when the I-V burst free from the inmate's arm.
In 1988, one spectacular "blowout" resulted in the lethal chemicals being
sprayed around the room. Even then Texas didn't call a halt and re-examine
the lethal injection procedure. The one comfort for would-be witnesses is
there is now a Plexiglas window in place so they are protected from such a
mishap. Old hands at the prison say witnesses used to stand behind a
simple rail, almost close enough to reach out and touch the gurney.
Former warden Jim Willett oversaw 89 executions in his three years as head
of the Huntsville prison. He now oversees the nearby Texas Prison Museum,
a tourist attraction just outside the city with a world-class collection
of lethal homemade shanks, old photos and Old Sparky, the state's
out-of-commission electric chair.
The chair carried 361 inmates to their death before it was unplugged for
the last time in 1964. When executions began again, the chair was replaced
with a gurney, and a chemical solution did the work of the electric
Willett was in charge of the process as warden. He still speaks with awe
about the efficiency of the Texas execution teams. "These guys are so well
trained that it just goes like this." He snapped his fingers in cadence 3
times. "Every time."
Willett's job meant he stood in place at the head of the gurney, one of
the last faces the condemned would see, signaling when it was time for the
chemicals to begin pouring into the inmate's veins. Now retired, Willett
seems chastened by his time in the death chamber. He says he has to
"search my soul all the time about the morality--the morality of my
participation. I was a participant."
When I told Willett, a sweet and perpetually teary-eyed man, that I would
be witnessing the scheduled execution that night, he said with great
sincerity, "Oh, you don't want to do that. Don't do that. Please don't do
that. Once you've seen that it will always be with you. You're never gonna
forget it. And you might want to."
2 days before my visit another execution had been scheduled here in
Huntsville. The same kind of group had gathered at the prison: guards,
witnesses, the victims' family and a lone villain.
This was the same day the Court had announced it would hear arguments on
the humaneness of lethal injection. Seeing an opening, a team of
anti-death penalty attorneys flew into action, preparing an appeal for the
inmate based on the pending decision. Maddeningly, their computer crashed;
and while they scrambled to fix it, one of the team called the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals to advise that the appeal would be a few minutes late
and to beg the court to stay open. They were told matter-of-factly that
the court closed at 5 p.m. Period.
If the appeal didn't go through the Texas court, it couldn't go any
further. The lawyers missed the deadline by 20 minutes. Their client was
dead a few hours later.
The decision to close the court at its regular time was made by longtime
Texas Appeals Court Judge Sharon Keller, notorious in anti-death penalty
circles for her staunch support of the practice. She may be best known for
her refusal to accept definitive DNA evidence to clear a man in a rape
case. She didn't trust the science.
Rulings like that are just one of the reasons that death row inmates
rarely live long enough to digest their last meal in Texas.
As a first-time witness, I was an oddity at the prison that night.
Everyone else in the witness room was a veteran. They'd seen dozens. One
man, Michael Graczyk, had seen hundreds of men and women die.
An Associated Press reporter based in Houston, he sat quietly in the
corner tapping out advance stories on Turner's death. Graczyk is believed
to have witnessed more state-run executions than any warden, any
executioner, any guard or anybody in the modern Western world. He serves
as a kind of living memory bank for the people working at the prison and a
guide for those of us who hadn't seen the death chamber in operation
While a string of sitcoms and a recap of the previous night's vote totals
on Dancing With the Stars played loudly on the TV in our waiting area,
Graczyk pointed out the time and warned that traditionally, the longer the
wait, the worse it looked for the inmate.
I told him I had never seen an execution. He grumbled that there wasn't
much to see. "It's very uneventful. Very, very uneventful," he said,
"There's virtually no reaction. He may snort or gasp very briefly, snore
and that's it. The doctor comes in, he pronounces him dead and we leave."
Graczyk told me he'd lost count of the number of executions he had seen
when "it became an issue" for death penalty opponents who accused him of
regarding executions "like notches on the belt." He says he attends
because someone in the press has to. "If the state is going to take
somebody's life, I would hate to see that happen without someone
He's right, of course, but there are few takers.
A young reporter from another paper offered me a tip. "I try not to think
of them as people. Or it would make it really hard when you went home. You
We waited for hours. The phone in the room rang regularly. Unlike in the
movies, it was never the governor's office on the line. Instead, the
public information officer would bark into the phone "It hasn't happened
yet" or "We're still waiting." She dismissed the callers as "death penalty
groupies," people who phone constantly on execution nights to find out
whether the inmate is dead. She said she's never figured out whether they
are eager for the execution or praying for a reprieve.
More than 4 hours after the execution was scheduled to start, not long
before the death warrant ran out, the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped
the execution of Carlton Turner.
Deep inside The Walls in a bare cell, Turner had already polished off his
last meal: three omelets, a pizza, two cheeseburgers and a chocolate cake.
With the court ruling, he was escorted back to his cell to spend the night
stretched out on his own bed instead of on a slab.
In a state unaccustomed to standing down on the death penalty, Turner's
last-minute reprieve was met with stunned disbelief. Witnesses flew out of
the building as though they had been shot from a cannon.
Outside the prison, the protesters were flabbergasted. A band of Europeans
who had chosen to spend their vacations in Huntsville visiting death row
pen pals were shocked and overjoyed. A German film crew scrambled to
capture the rare celebration. During the hubbub, the vigil candle burned
out. No one really noticed.
In the parking lot a prison employee and a longtime protester exchanged
"Praise the Lord" salutes as they passed each other.
The heavy load of executions in this state is uniquely difficult for the
people who work in the Huntsville prison. Beginning officers earn less
than $24,000 a year, and they don't make extra money to participate in
executions. But for decades, these people have repeatedly volunteered for
the tough duty; to be part of the team, to be professionals, to feel they
are protecting the public. They often end up paying for the privilege.
They are met by distraught protesters on execution nights. When they go
home, they have to live with what they've seen.
Corrections officers have counseling available, but few seem to take part.
Expressing any concerns or doubts about the death penalty gets them moved
off the team. Most often, they are left to the cold comfort of Lone Star
beer and the company of people in the same position.
Former warden Jim Willett every day ponders his own morality while he
putters around the prison museum. Retired prison spokesman Larry
Fitzgerald says he still supports capital punishment in some cases but
concedes that he lives with what he calls "the sorrow."
On the other hand, the politicians who have pushed--and profited from--the
death penalty in Texas are still loyal to lethal injection. Yet most of
these folks have never made the short trek from the state capitol to the
prison to see their policies in action.
George W. Bush approved 152 executions and never deigned to watch one.
His successor, Rick Perry, has given the go-ahead to 166 executions, more
than any governor in modern times, but he has never been around when the
deed has been done. He has visited the death chamber, but only when it was
empty. He was simply a well-heeled tourist taking in the sights.
The elected judges who rule so imperiously in favor of execution can't
clear their calendars to watch one, either. Judge Sharon Keller, who
closed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rather than wait for a
life-or-death argument, has never come to Huntsville to see the results of
her rulings. Neither have any of the other judges on the state appeals
court who decide these cases on a regular basis.
The US Supreme Court does its work in splendid isolation, a world away
from the smell of the chemicals, the pain of the evening, the pangs of
conscience the workers in Huntsville carry out of the death chamber with
After years of performing executions at a pace that scares the bejesus out
of the rest of the civilized world, Texas finally has had to put the
brakes on its machine. At least for now, the state's politicians and legal
potentates are not in charge. Like the corrections officers and the
condemned, they can do little but wait for a court ruling.
In the death chamber tonight, for the first time in a generation, the
engine has been left idling.
(source: Mary Mapes, The Nation)
Pathologist's revision spurs another look at murder case----Lawyer for man
convicted of killing tot in '98 has filed for a new trial
A nearly decade-old murder case involving the death of a Montgomery County
toddler will be reopened at the request of a judge to determine the cause
and manner of death.
Conflicting reports about how 17-month-old Tristen Skye Rivet died on May
12, 1998 including a change of opinion by a former Harris County
associate medical examiner who performed the original autopsy have
prompted Montgomery County Precinct 3 Justice of Peace Edie Connelly to
seek an independent forensic pathologist to review the case.
''This is an attempt to resolve those issues and arise at the cause and
manner of death," Connelly said Tuesday after county commissioners
approved funding on Monday to hire an expert.
Neil Hampton Robbins, the common-law husband of the child's mother, was
convicted on Feb. 22, 1999, and sentenced to life in prison in the
slaying, based on testimony by Dr. Patricia Moore.
Moore concluded that Tristen's death was a homicide caused by asphyxia.
But in May of this year, Moore changed her opinion on the cause of death,
saying it was undetermined, according to Robbins' attorney and Montgomery
In June, Houston attorney Brian Wice, who is representing Robbins, filed
documents seeking a new trial for his client based on Moore's new opinion.
Moore, who now works as a forensic pathologist for the Southeast Texas
Forensic Center in Conroe, declined to comment on why she changed her
mind. A representative who answered the phone at the center said Moore
does not talk to the media.
Moore's work has come under scrutiny in the past when she worked for the
Harris County Medical Examiner's Office from 1996 to 2002.
In at least 3 cases involving child deaths, her superiors revised her
findings. She also was admonished by her supervisor for appearing to show
bias in favor of prosecutors, before resigning in 2002.
Tristen's mother, Barbara Hope, discovered her daughter not breathing in
her crib after returning from a shopping trip with Robbins' mother.
Robbins had been baby-sitting the girl and left the house shortly after
the two women returned to Hope's home in Spring.
Robbins told authorities that he had put the girl down for a nap and could
not explain her death. Authorities arrested Robbins, now 32, on June 26,
He is in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Stiles Unit in
(source: Houston Chronicle)
County wants Houston to pay for crime lab probe
The Harris County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to ask the city to pay
for a review of 180 cases with problematic HPD crime lab evidence.
The county's criminal courts judges launched the probe this month after a
man convicted on faulty HPD crime lab forensics was released.
Jack Thompson, the administrator in charge of running the county's courts,
said the probe could cost $500,000.
Commissioner Sylvia Garcia said the county's judges should consider
ordering the city to pay for the investigation. County Attorney Mike
Stafford will work with the judges to develop a reimbursement plan.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Jury continues to deliberate in the convicted killer case
A District Court jury is deliberating the case against Edwin Debrow Jr., a
convicted killer whose sentencing in 1992 was overturned earlier this
year. Debrow, who at 12 years old became the youngest murder defendant in
Bexar County history, faces up to 40 years for the slaying of Curtis
Edwards, a cabbie who was shot in the head during a botched robbery. Now
28, Debrow was awarded a new hearing, which began Monday, after the 4th
Court of Appeals threw out his sentence, based largely on legal work
undertaken by Debrow.
In asking for leniency, defense lawyer Lisa Jarrett reminded jurors that
Debrow has already served 16 years for the killing. She asked them to keep
in mind the hurt little boy who cried for help after emerging from the
taxi, which veered off the road and crashed moments after the gun was
"He's missed his childhood. He's missed his early adulthood," she said,
adding that the blame for the murder rests partly on an older man, Floyd
Hardeman, who was 32 years old at the time. He later pleaded guilty to
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. "I think of him more like a
But prosecutor Jill Mata said there was no evidence that Hardeman
orchestrated the crime.
"Is it sad that we have a 12-year-old that can do what he did?" Mata said
in her closing statements this morning. "It is tragic and sad, but it is
not your fault."
Mata asked the jury to sentence Debrow to 40 years, adding that because he
was a juvenile at the time of the 1991 slaying, the maximum sentence he
can receive is 40 years. He is not eligible for a life sentence, she said,
and so "he already got his break."
The jury who heard his1rst trial sentenced him to 27 years--the 1st
application in the county of a law that allowed for much longer sentences
for young killers. Debrow won the new hearing after he was able to prove
that an appellate attorney failed to file an appeal on time and the
records of what 5 witnesses said about him at his 1st sentencing could not
But for Debrow, the hard-won hearing is a gamble. He's seeking immediate
release. But because prosecutors are asking for the maximum of 40 years,
Debrow could end up spending more time in prison than if he had never
sought a 2nd chance.
Mental health care expanded for county workers, offenders ---- Officials
see the initiatives as wise investments.
Bexar County has ramped up its commitment to mental health with
initiatives that will help both county employees and mentally ill
For employees, the county is increasing its health insurance coverage for
mental health treatment in an effort to reduce 2 barriers to getting help
- cost and stigma - Commissioner Paul Elizondo announced Tuesday.
"We need to be treating mental illness with the same fervor as cancer or
anything else," he said.
Currently, the county's 3,900 employees and their dependents must pay high
out-of-pocket costs to see a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Beginning in January, treatment for mental health problems will have the
same co-pay as any other doctor's visit.
Employees with untreated mental disorders incur medical expenses more than
4 times higher than for other employees, and mental health conditions are
the 2nd-leading cause of absenteeism, according to Mental Health America
of Texas, a nationwide advocacy and educational organization whose chief
executive officer praised Bexar County's efforts.
Lynn Lasky Clark said covering employees' mental health care makes good
business sense in addition to being "the fair, humane and responsible
thing to do."
Elizondo used the announcement to challenge other businesses and
municipalities to follow suit.
In a pair of related initiatives, the county unveiled a mental health
court and a county-funded program that will help keep indigent, nonviolent
misdemeanor offenders out of jail and get them into treatment.
"The largest mental hospital in the county has long been the Bexar County
Jail," Elizondo said, with anywhere from 400 to 600 inmates who need
treatment at any given time.
The mental health court, similar to a drug court that requires treatment
and offers more intense supervision, will be launched with a $250,000
grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Up to 1/3 of the county's criminal docket is made up of mentally ill
offenders, said Judge Tim Johnson, a longtime advocate for such a court.
"Many of these people start out with mild mental illness" that is
exacerbated by drug use and lack of treatment, Johnson said. Once someone
lands in the criminal justice system, the person's situation almost always
gets worse, and it becomes more expensive for taxpayers, he said.
Commissioners authorized $1.5 million in their 2007-08 budget to expand
programs to keep the mentally ill out of jail.
Charlie Boone, chief operating officer for the Center for Health Care
Services, which was nationally recognized last year for its jail diversion
program, praised commissioners' actions.
"There is a huge cost when there is not access to mental health care in
the community," he said, but more important, "this is a humanity issue."
(source for both: San Antonio Express-News)
Texas judge has tough reputation in busiest death penalty state
The path to the nation's busiest death chamber winds through a court of
last resort where the presiding judge recently refused to keep her office
open past 5 p.m. to accept an last-minute appeal from an inmate about to
Judge Sharon Keller's relentless tough-on-crime approach earned her the
nickname "Killer Keller," and condemned prisoners in Texas know she is
unlikely to spare them from a lethal injection.
Keller, 54, cultivates her reputation, distributing campaign literature
showing a shadowy figure behind bars and the headline: "He won't be voting
for Judge Sharon Keller."
Keller is "clearly not the friend of the criminal defendant, and she is
active and aggressive in espousing her view of the law, which is very
often almost always very pleasing to the prosecutors and not to the
defense lawyers," said John Wright, a Huntsville defense attorney who has
represented death-row clients before the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
On the night Keller refused to keep the court open, Michael Richard's
lawyers had asked to file a last-minute appeal. They appealed through the
federal system instead, and the Supreme Court turned down his case.
Richard was put to death at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 25 for the rape and murder of
a Houston-area woman.
Just hours earlier, the high court had agreed to review the
constitutionality of lethal injection. Richard, 49, is the only person in
the nation to have been executed since that day.
After Richard's execution, conservatives praised the judge for treating
Richard like the killer he was. Civil rights activists vilified her as a
cold-blooded jurist who denied a condemned man a final appeal.
Keller, who declined requests from The Associated Press for an interview,
was elected as a Republican to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994,
becoming the 1st woman on the 9-member panel. Her decisions have made
In 1998, she and 4 other judges on the court refused to grant a retrial to
a man sentenced to 99 years for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl.
DNA tests determined that semen found on the victim did not belong to Roy
In her opinion, she speculated that the absence of Criner's semen may
signal "a failure to ejaculate ... or it may establish a condom was used."
Keller also noted that the victim was promiscuous.
Fellow Republican Judge Tom Price, who ran against Keller to be the
court's presiding judge, said she made the court a "national
"You could not deal with them on arguments that made any sense," said Mike
Charlton, who represented Criner and is now an assistant federal defender
"If you're a criminal defense attorney in Texas, you expect to lose a
majority of cases. But there are some cases that you're supposed to win,
and the Roy Criner case is one of those cases. He was so obviously
Gov. George W. Bush pardoned Criner in 2000.
"Even a conservative governor like George Bush and his conservative staff
recognized that this was an obvious miscarriage, a transparent miscarriage
that nobody could explain," Charlton said.
Keller grew up in Dallas and served as a prosecutor in the Dallas County
district attorney's office, working in the appellate section. Her parents
own a Dallas hamburger chain.
Supporters describe her as a soft-spoken, charming woman whose decisions
are well reasoned and principled.
In the Criner case "there were a lot of issues that went back and forth,"
said Rob Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County
Attorneys Association. "She came down on one side of it, but it was a
principled answer ... she's very intellectually honest."
Because judges in Texas are elected, experts say a law-and-order platform
is the only way to win a seat on the bench.
"What are they going to say? I promise to be soft on crime and let
criminals go? No, they're going to say just the opposite and they do,"
said Jim Marcus, a clinical professor in the capital punishment clinic at
University of Texas School of Law.
The Court of Criminal Appeals has been made up entirely of Republicans
since 1994, but some observers believe Keller's anti-crime fervor has been
infectious, helping to push the panel farther to the right.
"It's hard not to recognize that this was someone who wanted to chart an
agenda," Charlton said. "And she had more than enough people willing to go
along with her."
(source: Associated Press)
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