A letter to a longtime (white) friend in the labor movement about race and policing

December 2, 2014

Dear _____,

Thank you for responding so thoughtfully to the MLK speech I asked you to read. I really didn’t mean to be patronizing in assigning you “homework,” but in what follows I will suggest other things to read by way of evidence for my claims. Here we go:

1. Ferguson is about race. And class. In the United States, these categories have substituted for one another in way that perpetuates racism against what is labeled a criminal, degenerate “underclass.” Of course many, many thousands of white people are poor. Obviously most of us protesting against police use of deadly force would stand up for them as well. Many people around me now can be found both at anti-police-brutality protests and living wage for Wal-mart workers protests. The ruling class divides us on the basis of race, perpetuates a set of racist ideas to that end, and effectively shuts down class struggle as well. You know, of course, the importance of inter-racial (and inter-gender etc.) solidarity on any picket line. We have to stand up to racism both in conjunction with other struggles and separately. When it comes to the police, race is the dominant feature of differential treatment.

The Grand Jury was mishandled grievously, and we cannot take its judgement as credible. Even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks so.  See also this, and this.

2. There is a racism problem in policing in the United States. Every 28 hours, a black man in the United States is shot by a cop. PolitiFact has verified this claim: Here is more evidence supporting the claim that there is a profound racial disparity in extrajudicial killings by police. And more.

3. This racism problem corresponds to broader manifestations and consequences of racism. We cannot blame those consequences on failures of democratic engagement or personal responsibility because they are historical and systemic and have conditioned the possibilities of life for every Black person alive today. The gap between the top 1% of the population and the rest of us is at historic highs. But there is an enormous wealth gap that can be attributed to race. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Blacks.

Black unemployment has always been at least 2/3 higher than that of whites. To attribute this difference to failures in personal responsibility does not begin to explain the systematic, permanent discrimination against Black people, not only poor ones, but upwardly mobile ones as well. Stories about Black executives being mistaken for “the help” abound. A recent study gave employers reviewing employment applications identical sets of resumes, but with one set featuring “Black” names like Jamal. The gap in callbacks is notable.

In addition to and because of gaps in wealth and employment, Black Americans and other minority groups suffer disproportionately from inferior schools, housing, health care, and other resources. Black men are grossly disproportionately incarcerated for the same crimes. The “war on drugs” has been a disaster for the country, but especially so for Black men.  According to the Sentencing Project, racial perceptions of crime have distorted the criminal justice system.

This radical difference cannot be attributed to higher crime rates among Blacks. Sentencing rates for the same crime show how the war on drugs disproportionately penalizes the Black and poor.

Incarceration Rate by Gender and Race

The turn to making a living via the secondary, illicit economy makes sense in this context. And you know that compared to the Fortune 500 and the bankers, any theft or “looting” undertaken by the poor pales incomparison.

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4. Riots, like other forms of disruption (Boston Tea Party, anyone?), including strikes and other labor actions, have historically been effective at prompting change. While engaging in local destruction, they can focus mass public attention on social problems when more measured responses have not. Such a conversation has exploded since the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Wilson.

Moreover, most protests around this issue and others do not generally take the form of riots. When riots do occur, much of the time it is the police who instigate them, according to a University of California study. In 1968, the year after riots swept US cities in response to disenfranchisement and poverty, LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act Into Law. His action was a response to the riots and to a report about them, which LBJ commissioned, by the Kerner Commission. The Kerner Commission report concluded (unhappily for LBJ) that Black and white Americans lived in two separate societies, one marked by despair and disadvantage. Its analysis of the riots concluded two things: that they were motivated by legitimate anger and despair, and that they were largely sparked by acts of police violence. This is a federal commission report, not a radical treatise.

5. Even when not correlated with positive change, riots in response to racist policing should not be understood simply as acts of destructive lawlessness. This was the point of King’s speech. I was not comparing Mike Brown to MLK. MLK was simply noting the rationality that lies behind riots as expressions of the oppressed. He understood why people would riot and did not judge riots moralistically, even though he did not advocate riots as a tactic. (He did, however, embrace unlawful civil disobedience.) He stated, ““I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Here’s a position of small business owners in Ferguson that you don’t see in the mass media: A group of them “closed for struggle” in solidarity with the rioters.

6. One need not have been an “angel” in order to deserve to go on living, or to be an example of a deadly racist practice. Activists of all races should stand in solidarity with communities oppressed in all of the ways described above. Mike Brown was no angel. But last I checked, shoplifting and shoving are not capital offenses. And his death was not the sole catalyst for anger. We have not built a movement only around Michael Brown. We have built it also around Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Larry Jackson, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, and many, many others who have died as a result of what I hope I have proven here to be a racist police practice.

In the month since Brown’s death, there have been at least 13 more such killings of unarmed Black men by police.

According to Pro-Publica, “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

“One way of appreciating that stark disparity, ProPublica’s analysis shows, is to calculate how many more whites over those three years would have had to have been killed for them to have been at equal risk. The number is jarring – 185, more than one per week.”

Traffic stop data reveal a similarly profound racial disparity.

7. We have to understand riot shaming and the other arguments (for example, “he was no angel,” “he was monstrous and scary,” “other racial groups have made it successfully”) used to discredit Ferguson activists and the claims about race and policing as ideological diversions from the fundamental racism that divides US society with tragic, deadly consequences for people of color, especially young men.

See this piece that I wrote last year on the “no angel” theme: .
See this on the racism behind the “monster” characterizations.  on the racism behind the “monster” theme.
See this on the myth of the model minority.

8. We must see the patterns in policing and incarceration as systematically connected to generalized oppression. We must see that going along with the logic of racial divide and conquer, which depends on the image of Black people as criminals, is damaging to the working class as a whole.

I recommend Nicholas Kristoff’s series in the New York Times about how white people “don’t get it.” Perhaps it will make more sense to you than I, being a radical, can.

Our friendship is deeply important to me. As a loving and principled person committed to social justice, please consider my arguments and evidence on this issue, which, like the battle for labor rights and welfare, has only two sides.

Love and solidarity,
Dana

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“No angel”: A disturbing, dehumanizing pattern

Let these facts be entered into evidence:

1. George Zimmerman was acquitted July 14 after chasing down and murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen. Zimmerman’s assumption was that because Trayvon was Black and wearing a hoodie, he was an “f***ing punk.” He was, after all, “no angel.”

2. Marissa Alexander, a Black woman in Florida, was sentenced July 18 to 20 years in jail for firing warning shots (not even aiming at a person) in self-defense against her abusive partner. The contrast with the Zimmerman case suggests that Alexander’s race, and perhaps the race of her spouse, determined the differential treatment and sentencing.

3. Larry Jackson, a Black resident of Austin, TX, was chased and shot in the back of the neck on July 26 by a police officer named Charles Kleinert. Today it was reported that the Austin Police Department is claiming that the shooting was an “accident”–even though Kleinert had no reason to chase, much less draw a weapon on, Jackson. (It was the third such police shooting this year.) Again, reporting suggests that one rationale for Kleinert’s actions was that Jackson, loitering near the bank, acted suspiciously, and that he had a record of committing fraud in 2003. Neither approaching a bank nor fraud is a capital crime. If a white man had pulled on the bank door, would Kleinert have given chase? I believe not–even though the persons who had robbed the bank earlier in the day were white. News reports insist that Jackson was “no angel”–as if one must either be guilty of absolutely no wrongdoing ever, or face death–but only if one is Black.

4. In Louisiana, a Black, 14-year-old girl in juvenile detention reported a guard for sexual abuse. A headline reporting her claim stated that she was no “little Miss Muffin,” suggesting that despite her age and the severely constrained capacity to determine her own actions, she consented to the sexual relationship. Prison attorneys argue that she “wanted to be raped.”

5. In many death penalty cases, evidence of innocence is overlooked after the original conviction, on the grounds that the defendant–in most cases, Black or brown–should die because they were likely criminals in any case. Indeed, TX governor Anne Richards, a Democrat who oversaw 48 executions during her time in office,  commented in 1993 when refusing to grant clemency to Leonel Herrera, scheduled for execution in spite of a case for innocence: “He must be guilty of something.”

I could list dozens of other cases of police executions, death row executions, disproportionate sentencing, deafness to claims of innocence, and consistent racial profiling as warrant for the terrorizing and murder of people of color. As Michelle Alexander shows in her book The New Jim Crow, the criminalization of people of color, and especially Black men, since the civil rights movement has generated a regime of segregation and vigilantism that works through the criminal justice system. To deny someone due process–of which execution by cop (or cop-wanna-be) is the most extreme example–on the argument that because they are Black or brown renders racial minority members as less than human, as threats to an orderly society, as people guilty “of something” warranting imprisonment, violation, or death, regardless of actual innocence.

The racist backlash against those making these connections has been virulent and profound. But we must stand our ground.

RNC activists charged as “terrorists” for exercising democratic rights

http://twincities.indymedia.org/2008/sep/breaking-rnc-8-charged-conspiracy-riot-furtherance-terrorism

BREAKING: RNC 8 Charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in
Furtherance of Terrorism”

In what appears to be the first use of criminal charges
under the 2002 Minnesota version of the Federal Patriot Act,
Ramsey County Prosecutors have formally charged 8 alleged
leaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee with Conspiracy to
Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism. Monica Bicking, Eryn
Trimmer, Luce Guillen Givins, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor,
Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Max Spector, face up
to 7 1/2 years in prison under the terrorism enhancement
charge which allows for a 50% increase in the maximum
penalty.

Affidavits released by law enforcement which were filed in
support of the search warrants used in raids over the
weekend, and used to support probable cause for the arrest
warrants, are based on paid, confidential informants who
infiltrated the RNCWC on behalf of law enforcement. They
allege that members of the group sought to kidnap delegates
to the RNC, assault police officers with firebombs and
explosives, and sabotage airports in St. Paul. Evidence
released to date does not corroborate these allegations with
physical evidence or provide any other evidence for these
allegations than the claims of the informants. Based on past
abuses of such informants by law enforcement, the National
Lawyers Guild is concerned that such police informants have
incentives to lie and exaggerate threats of violence and to
also act as provacateurs in raising and urging support for
acts of violence.

“These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated
plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the
same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real
violence and attempts to place the stated political views of
the Defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, President
of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
“The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice
system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large
scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil
disobedience, he said.”

The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney
do not allege that any of the defendants personally have
engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. The
complaints list all of alleged violations of law during the
last few days of the RNC — other than violations of human
rights carried out by law enforcement — and seeks to hold
the 8 defendants responsible for acts committed by other
individuals. None of the defendants have any prior criminal
history involving acts of violence. Searches conducted in
connection with the raids failed to turn up any physical
evidence to support the allegations of organized attacks on
law enforcement. Although claiming probable cause to believe
that gunpowder, acids, and assembled incendiary devices
would be found, no such items were seized by police. As a
result, police sought to claim that the seizure of common
household items such as glass bottles, charcoal lighter,
nails, a rusty machete, and two hatchets, supported the
allegations of the confidential informants. “Police
found what they claim was a single plastic shield, a rusty
machete, and two hatchets used in Minnesota to split wood.
This doesn’t amount to evidence of an organized
insurrection, particularly when over 3,500 police are
present in the Twin Cities, armed with assault rifles,
concussion grenades, chemical weapons and full riot
gear,” said Nestor. In addition, the National Lawyers
Guild has previously pointed out how law enforcement has
fabricated evidence such as the claims that urine was seized
which demonstrators intended to throw at police.

The last time such charges were brought under Minnesota law
was in 1918, when Matt Moilen and others organizing labor
unions for the Industrial Workers of the World [ed.
correction-TCIMC] on the Iron Range were charged with
“criminal syndicalism.” The convictions, based on
allegations that workers had advocated or taught acts of
violence, including acts only damaging to property, were
upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In the light of
history, these convictions are widely seen as unjust and a
product of political trials. The National Lawyers Guild
condemns the charges filed in this case against the above 8
defendants and urges the Ramsey County Attorney to drop all
charges of conspiracy in this matter.

Source:
Bruce Nestor, President
Minnesota Chapter of National Lawyers Guild

Take Action to Save Jeff Wood

There’s a man in Texas about to be executed for driving a car. Sound familiar?

It should. Last year anti-death penalty activists pressed for and won the commutation of the sentence of Kenneth Foster who was scheduled for execution for a murder in which he was not even involved. He drove a car away from the scene, but had had no idea that his friend Mauricio Brown would take a life.

Fast forward to 2008.

At approximately 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 2, 1996, while Wood waited outside, Reneau entered the gas station with a gun and pointed it at Kris Keeran, the clerk standing behind the counter. Reneau ordered him to a back room. When he did not move quickly enough, Reneau fired one shot with a 22 caliber handgun that struck Keeran between the eyes. Death was almost instantaneous. Proceeding with the robbery, Reneau went into the back office and took a safe. When hearing the shot, Wood got out of the car to see what was going on. He walked by the door and looked through the glass. Then he went inside, and he looked over the counter and ran to the back, where Reneau was. Wood was then ordered, at gun point by Reneau, to get the surveillance video and to drive the getaway-car.

Additional facts:

  • Wood suffers from severe mental, emotional, and learning disabilities. He was abused and beaten severely and repeatedly as a child. He is submissive to dominant behavior because of such.
  • At arrest Wood was forced into interrogation by the police and did not have council present. Wood was kept awake the entire time. He was refused sleep. He eventually confessed saying it was a planned robbery. He later revoked this statement.
  • Wood was found not mentally fit to stand trial. He was admitted into a mental hospital and a couple of weeks later was found ‘trial ready’.
  • At trial, Wood was not satisfied with his representation. Wood asked to represent himself, but wasn’t allowed to do so. The judge found him not capable of doing this. The judge however, did not argue Wood when Wood said he would then order his attorney’s not to do anything. Result: Jeff had no witnesses during the punishment phase of his trial on his behalf.
  • • The victim’s father is against the death penalty and actually campaigned to keep the actual gunman Reneau alive.

Go to http://www.savejeffwood.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=8 to write the Governor of Texas on Wood’s behalf.

Activism Works: Call-in Campaign Wins Transfer for Al-Arian

Prison Folds Under Pressure from Call-In Campaign

In Response to Telephone Calls and a Court Order, Dr. Al-Arian
Transferred Again

August 6, 2008 Alexandria, VA –

Following a week-long campaign to bring an end to his harsh
treatment at the hands of officials at the Pamunkey Regional Jail in
Hanover, Virginia, Dr. Sami Al-Arian has finally been removed from
solitary confinement.  Moreover, following a brief stint at the
Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia, Dr. Al-Arian was
brought back to the Alexandria Detention Center where he awaits trial
on criminal contempt scheduled for August 13.

The latest move followed a flurry of activity in Dr.
Al-Arian’s pre-trial detention, which his attorney, Professor
Jonathan Turley, has called “unconstitutional.”  Since being granted
bail by Judge Leonie Brinkema on July 10, Dr. Al-Arian has been moved
between facilities no less than five times.  After being taken from
Alexandria to the Pamunkey Regional Jail, where he was subjected to
punitive conditions, Dr. Al-Arian was brought to the Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Fairfax last week.  Upon his
return to Pamunkey, officials there refused to accept him because of
the high volume of telephone calls to the facility in protest of its
abuse of Dr. Al-Arian’s rights.  The immigration agents then
transported him to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, 200 miles away
from Dr. Al-Arian’s family and attorneys in Washington.

In addition to the protests by concerned citizens, Dr.
Al-Arian was also aided by several motions by Professor Turley to the
court highlighting the government’s abuses.  One motion called for a
delay in the trial date because Dr. Al-Arian has been denied his
constitutional right to prepare for trial by consulting with his
attorneys.  While Judge Brinkema has yet to rule on that request by
the defense, she has expressed concerns over the government’s abuses.
According to a post on Professor Turley’s blog, “In a telephone
conference, Judge Brinkema took the government to task for its
constant movements of Dr. Al-Arian.  She stated that the situation
was raising very serious questions over his 6th Amendment rights and
said that she could think of no reason why the government is putting
him so far from the court and counsel.  She also expressed concern of
these moves on Dr. Al-Arian’s health and said it was a terrible waste
of taxpayers’ money to force a defendant to drive 100 miles back and
forth to a court or counsel.”

Following this conference, the Court issued an order for Dr.
Al-Arian to be brought back to Alexandria within 48 hours.  He
arrived at the Alexandria Detention Center at midnight, his fifth
move in the past three weeks.

A hearing in which all pre-trial motions will be argued is
scheduled for this Friday, August 8 at the Albert V. Bryan Federal
Courthouse in Alexandria, VA.  All concerned citizens are urged to
attend this critical hearing that will likely determine the nature of
Dr. Al-Arian’s upcoming trial.

Drop all charges in the yogurt shop case!

see aahttp: http://yogurtshopjustice.blogspot.com/\\DNA EXONERATES SCOTT, SPRINGSTEEN IN YOGURT SHOP MURDERS:
Criminal Justice Activists Call for All Charges To Be Dropped

There is new and compelling DNA evidence in the Yogurt Shop murder case that exonerates all of the suspects arrested in connection with this 1991 murder of four young women in an Austin yogurt shop. Four men were arrested eight years after the murders: Forrest Welborn, Maurice Pierce, Michael Scott, and Robert Springsteen.

Eventually, Scott was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2002, and Springsteen was convicted and sentenced to death in 2001. (The Supreme Court’s decision in Simmons v. Missouri in 2005 struck down the death penalty for juvenile offenders, thus vacating Springsteen’s death sentence. Springsteen was 17 at the time of the murders.)

But Scott and Springsteen could be coming home soon. New comparison tests of DNA collected at the scene, conducted in April, 2008, concludes that male DNA recovered from the body of 13-year-old Amy Ayers matched none of the four men arrested.  Therefore, it is possible that a perpetrator yet unknown was present the night of the murders and that he sexually assaulted Ayers. Scott’s and Springsteen’s lawyers have received approval to retest DNA from other pieces of evidence, including some of the victims’ clothing. These results further demonstrate that not a shred of physical evidence connects these young men to the crime.

Even in 2002, the state could not muster a case for indictment against Welborn, and Maurice Pierce, whom the District Attorney had named “ringleader” of the group.  Both men were released for lack of evidence prior to trial. Even in 2002, the prosecution’s case was completely circumstantial, relying exclusively on the coerced and confused confessions of the two defendants. In 2007, both Springsteen’s and Scott’s convictions were overturned because their confessions were illegally used against each other at trial.

Tony Diaz, a lawyer working on Michael Scott’s defense, recently listed evidence from multiple scientific domains that, he claims, exonerate Scott and Springsteen:

•    Ballistics: Gun cartridges and shells found at the scene did not match any gun owned by any of the defendants.
•    Fire and crime scene reconstruction: there is no physical evidence linking the men to the scene; there is controversy over where the fire started, casting the men’s “confessions” into doubt. Defense attorneys have argued that the fire did not begin on the girls’ bodies, as Scott’s statement suggested, but rather on a countertop. Features of the crime scene, including a locked door (when the confessions claimed the young men had entered through a door that was bolted from the inside) contradict the prosecution account.
•    Criminology and fingerprinting: None of the several hairs and fingerprints matched the suspects.
•    Psychology: There is ample support for the fact that suspects in custody will invent false confessions under various kinds of pressure and threats like those facing Michael Scott during his week-long interrogation. At one point the interrogating officer held a gun to Scott’s head. Many statements in Scott’s confession do not match crime-scene evidence. The police received dozens of other confessions in connection to this case.
•    Biology: No DNA collected at the scene of the crime matches any of the four young men.

Yet the District Attorney’s office persists in prosecuting Scott and Springsteen in spite of the shambles the new evidence makes of their already weak case.

In a writ asking that all charges against Springsteen be dismissed based on the new exculpatory evidence, attorney Joe James Sawyer wrote, “This exonerates Defendant Springsteen and makes it clear someone else committed these murders.” Prosecutors acknowledged that the previously undiscovered DNA did not come from either of the two men facing trial.

“This is a momentous breakthrough,” commented Jeannine Scott, wife of Michael Scott. “They got the wrong guys. They’ve had the wrong guys for nearly ten years. It’s time to end this charade.”

Mrs. Scott and other members of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty are calling for all charges against Scott and Springsteen to be dropped immediately. “There is no need for more trials,” said Lily Hughes, member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “It would be ridiculous to spend the money and take the years of time it would take to re-try these guys when it’s increasingly clear that they are not the killers.”

Scott’s trial has been postponed pending the release of the full results of the latest DNA tests. Meanwhile, Scott’s supporters and other activists will engage in public education and protests to bring attention to the new evidence and call on the District Attorney to drop all charges against both men.

How the mighty are fallen. . .

Judge Sharon “Killer” Keller is feeling the heat after she refused to accept an appeal after the 5 p.m. closing time of the TX Court of Criminal Appeals. Michael Richard was executed as a result. The court would surely have stayed the execution pending a Supreme Court decision about cases challenging the method of lethal injection. Here is the latest:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/5374395.html

Dec. 13, 2007, 9:03AM

Judge in death case violated policies

Keller, who shut out appeal, says new written rules reflect unwritten
ones on that day

By R.G. RATCLIFFE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN – Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon
Keller apparently violated court policies for handling death penalty
cases when she closed the court clerk’s doors on Michael Richard’s
efforts to file a last-minute appeal before his execution.

In response to a national outcry against Keller’s actions, the court
adopted written policies last month to make certain a death row
inmate’s appeals always go first to an assigned judge.

In response to a public information request from the Houston
Chronicle, Keller said in a letter that no written court procedures
existed Sept. 25, the day of Richard’s execution. However, she said
the new written rules reflected the court’s unwritten policies on
that day.

Keller was not the judge assigned to handle Richard’s appeal when she
decided to close the clerk’s office so that Richard’s lawyers could
not file a late appeal.

Judge Cheryl Johnson was in charge of Richard’s case on the day of
his execution, but did not learn of his lawyers’ attempts to file for
a stay of execution until the day after his death.

A lawyer who has been representing other attorneys in filing
complaints against Keller for her handling of the Richard case said
Keller’s response to the Chronicle’s information request clearly
shows Keller violated the court’s unwritten policies in cutting off
Richard’s appeal.

“To me, it’s a pretty stunning admission that she operated totally
outside of their procedures,” said Jim Harrington, who has
coordinated attorney complaints filed against Keller with the Texas
Commission on Judicial Conduct. “She doesn’t have respect for the
processes of the court, which are designed to protect due process.”

Keller did not respond to a request for an interview, and her office
referred calls to appeals court Judge Tom Price, who also did not
respond.

On the day of Richard’s execution, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed
to consider whether the chemicals used for lethal injection in the
United States amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Richard’s lawyers attempted to get a stay of execution for him while
that case was under review. But they had computer problems and asked
the state appeals court clerk’s office to remain open late to accept
the appeal. Keller ordered the clerk to close at the usual time: 5
p.m. Richard was executed three hours later for a 1986 rape and
murder.

The Supreme Court three days later halted another Texas execution
based on the lethal injection appeal. The court with its action
created a de facto national moratorium on executions.

In its public information request, the Chronicle asked for the state
appeals court procedures for handling death penalty cases on the day
of Richard’s execution.
“No written policies regarding those matters existed on that date
(Sept. 25),” Keller wrote. “Subsequent to that date, the court
reduced to writing the unwritten policies that did exist on that
date.”

The written policy the court later adopted said the judge assigned to
the case should stay on duty on the day of an execution until the
execution occurs. The policy also said “all communications regarding
the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned
judge.”

Johnson did not respond to a request for an interview.

Two of the court’s other judges, Paul Womack and Cathy Cochran, also
were available to handle the appeal. They also never heard about
Richard’s attempt to appeal until after his execution.

Since Richard’s execution, lawyers from around Texas have filed
complaints against Keller with the State Commission on Judicial
Conduct.