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By Jack King
NACDL News columns.
On Sept. 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injection in Baze v. Rees, prompting death penalty lawyers all over the country to file for stays of execution pending the high court’s decision in that case. Advised by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals general counsel that the Texas Defender Service would be filing for a stay in the imminent execution of Michael Richard sometime after the court’s official closing time of 5:00 p.m., Chief Judge Sharon Keller ordered that the clerk’s office be closed at 5:00 and neglected to refer the case to any of the appeals judges in the courthouse, who could have issued an emergency stay. Mr. Richard was executed that evening. As a result, a number of persons and organizations, including NACDL, filed complaints against Judge Keller with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which appointed a special master, retired judge David A. Berchelmann Jr., to investigate the matt
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