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November 7, 2007

Texas CCA Implements Rules on Email Appeals in Death Cases

The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has implemented emergency rules that allow appeals in imminent execution cases to be filed via email.  This stemmed from the case of Michael Richard who was executed on September 25th.  His lawyers tried to file a last minute appeal to stay his execution but could not do so past the 5 PM closing time due to computer problems in his lawyer's office.  The U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to review the case of a Kentucky man  facing death on the grounds that the chemical cocktail used in that state was cruel and unusual punishment.  Texas uses the same mix. 

Presiding Judge Keller told the clerk to close promptly at 5 even though she had notice from Richard's lawyers that they wanted more time.  Other judges on the Court indicated that they would have been available to receive the papers had they known the circumstances.  The procedural glitch prevented papers from going to the U.S. Supreme Court which could have possibly stayed the execution.  Texas, of course, seems to have a different mentality when it comes to due process and the death penalty.

The new rules require an attorney to give notice during business hours that an email petition is coming, and lays out other specific procedures that confirm the receipt of the documents by the Court electronically and in paper.

A story on the rules is available from the Houston Chronicle.  The PDF announcement from the Court is here.

November 7, 2007 | Permalink


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