Judge Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is on trial before the State Judicial Commission for misconduct after she refused to allow the clerk's office to stay open after 5:00 p.m. on September 25, 2007. That day death-row inmate Michael Wayne Richard was scheduled to be executed for sexually assaulting and killing a woman in 1986. His attorneys wanted to file an appeal on Richard's case after the Supreme Court announced that day that they would hear verbal arguments as to the humanity of lethal injection as a means to execute prisoners. However, Richard's attorneys had computer problems about 20 minutes prior to 5:00 p.m. that were not going to allow them to file their paperwork with the court until after closing. They contacted the clerk's office who then contacted Judge Keller at home (she had left early that day to meet a repairman at her home). Judge Keller instructed the clerk's office to close at their usual time. Just over three and a half hours later, Richards was put to death.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (the organization that filed the complaint against Judge Keller) say she violated the State's execution day guidelines which allow death-row inmates access to the courts to file appeal documents after closing time. One of Keller's points of defense is that she was merely asked if the clerk's office could stay open late and she responded "no" because Texas law states that state employees' office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Also as part of her defense, Keller recalls Richards' case which involved several appeals and two trials that led to repeated convictions of Richard. If found guilty of misconduct, Judge Keller could be removed from the bench.