back to article Computer glitch nixes death row appeal in Texas

A Texas inmate was sent to his death after a computer glitch held up his appeal filing, and a presiding judge refused to extend the deadline. Earlier that day the US Supreme Court said it would consider a case from Kentucky, in which lawyers were arguing that the lethal injection is unconstitutional. The Houston Chronicle …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jason Harvey

    maybe... just maybe...

    the judge is tired of lawyers bending/breaking the rules and is laying down the law. fancy that... a judge laying down the law... I thought that was their job. go figure.

  2. Tawakalna

    but it's in Texas...

    ..where they'll bend over backwards to kill you. I wonder if Dubya's brother's firm supplied the computers that had the "glitch" - first rigged voting, now rigged killing. Seems like a natural progression?

  3. Abhinav Bajpai


    Those judges sure taught the lawyers a lesson!

  4. trollboy

    re: Maybe... just maybe

    Dunno if you're in the UK or in the colonies, but texas is infamous for executions and a harsh criminal justice system. Friends of mine who've lived in the state often remark "You can tell how long you've lived here by your criminal record".

    As for the judge in question;

  5. James Condron


    Same reason I never handed in any homework, the printer was broken etc.

    Whats the betting they'd have done my next trick with the email? Force a spreadsheet to open in word and email that, claiming it got corrupted?

    At least i only failed exams, though- this bastard ended up dead for his incompetent lawyers

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Act of God?

    Whenever something great happens, the Americans claim that it shows that god is on their side.

    Does this mean that God was definitely not on the side of this inmate?

    (Apologies if this comes out a little unkind/cruel - it's not meant to be, it's been a long day and I don't agree with the death penalty)

  7. Aaron Cameron

    You're out of your mind.


    What kind of crazy, inhuman, immoral position is that to take when someone was put to DEATH because of it? This wasn't procedural strictness in a civil case, or drug possession, or even burglary. A person was murdered, perhaps inappropriately, because of procedural zeal.

    For that matter, what kind of lax sense of responsibility and context would suggest that staying around until 7pm is somehow above and beyond where a person's life is at stake? I'm a computer programmer and I have to work into the night, or all night if something so trivial as a mail server goes down. All this does is scream to me that there is a fundamental and inconceivable lack of respect for the gravity of the decisions these people are responsible for making.

  8. James O'Shea

    incompetent bozos

    They didn't get the appeal filed on time because they couldn't _print it_?! What kind of lawyers only have one printer?! Why not email it to someone else, and print it there? So the court won't accept emails, they never have to know that it was emailed elsewhere! They could even email it to someone in the court building and print it on a court printer and then hand-carry it to the judge!

    And what where they _doing_, waiting until the very last minute? Print that boy first thing in the morning and get it to the court before noon! If _I_ were the judge, and they showed up 20 minutes late with a lame excuse like this one, not only would I not accept the filing, but I'd sling the idiot lawyers in stir for contempt of court!

  9. mark

    Fiat iustitia, or justitia, ruat caelum


  10. Daniel

    @Jason Harvey

    Perhaps... but a man DIED because his attorneys were 20 minutes over the deadline, and other judges on the case were willing to make accommodations. I question whether the lead judge should be removed from the bench for raw callousness.


  11. Keith T

    Jason -- killing the client to spite his lawyers?

    It would be criminal to kill someone just because you p*ssed off at their lawyers.

    And I don't think it is a judges job to do something criminal.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Justice is based on judgment and ethics and morality. I am sick of seeing officials and criminals alike hiding behind technicalities and precedence as though those things overrule common sense. If the guy had a legitimate appeal it should have been allowed, even if they woke her up at midnight to file it.

    I hope whatever she needed to watch on television at 5:30 was more important than the mans life. Sorry judge, but its gonna be a real bitch paying off the karma on this one.

  13. John A Blackley

    Wait a minute.................or don't

    Something (actually, many things) is not right about this story.

    Judge Cathy Cochran said that "A number of judges stayed very late that evening, waiting for a filing from the defence attorney." (By the way, Cathy, many of us don't consider seven o'clock to be 'very late' but that's another post.)

    Judge Paul Womack also stayed in the office until "very late". But why? Why did these selfless public servants give up happy hour when............Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to allow the appeal to be filed after 5pm, and did not consult with her colleagues on her decision? Would t have made any difference if Richards' lawyers had submitted his appeal at, say, 5.05 p.m. when Sharon had ruled it inadmissable?

    As for said lawyers, I hope I never have to turn to them. A man was killed because they couldn't print his appeal? Their client should sue for inadequate representation. Oh wait. He can't. He's dead.

    p.s. Jason: Your humanity and love of your fellow man totally underwhelms me.


  14. B Gracey

    maybe, again

    And again, maybe it wasn't wise of the defendant to murder someone, let alone in a state where capital punishment exists.

    But more importantly, if you're smart enough to pass the bar exam and make a (presumably) six-figure income, why are you not smart enough to use a computer, or hire someone who can?

  15. Hugh Winkler

    Wow jason

    A guy got killed because the lawyers filed late. I guess that'll teach *them*.

    The story doesn't mention this, but a similar filing for another death row convict was approved the next day, in light of that same Supreme Court ruling.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    RE: maybe... just maybe...

    Yeah...Because Texas is a big fan of Law...

  17. John Gamble

    Computers Don't Argue

    And truth meets fiction, shakes hands, and reminisce.


  18. Steve Browne

    What an attitude

    Don't you just think a little leeway could have been granted when a person's life is at stake ?

    Perhaps they would have murdered him anyway, but maybe there was the possibility of a mistake and perhaps waiting a little longer to satisfy their bloodlust would have been in order.

    In any event, I fail to see how you demonstrate it is wrong to kill people by killing people.

  19. Rob


    They stayed "very late" and i quote here, bearing mind that a man's life is on the line:

    Judge Paul Womack was one of those who stayed in the office, waiting for the appeal. "All I can tell you is that night I stayed at the court until seven o'clock in case some late filing came in,"

    7pm is late these days?? i don't know about you, but i've stayed a lot later than that for something less important than someones life.

  20. Rick Brasche
    Dead Vulture

    computers maybe can save the world!

    finally, a computer glitch I can support.

    Considering how hard you have to try to actually get the death penalty, with bleeding heart lawyers and selfish agenda'ed civil rights groups who care only about one "race", for it to have made it this far, even in Texas, this guy was a serious waste of life.

    before all you weenies start with the whole "but what if it was you?" schtick, save your breath. Of even all the so-called "innocents" that have been "mistakenly" executed, almost all of them already had committed on record many evil acts that should have gotten them removed from society in the first place. Just like those "Third Strike" whiners, complaining how the "smallest" felony is gonna put them away...neglecting to mention the two heinous previous felonies that put them in this situation.

    funny how more folks will buy into a conspiracy around moon landings and 9/11 before they'll believe a sleazy violent murderer and scummy lawyers would (gasp!) actually *lie* about their roles in evil, disgusting crimes...

    Fire up Ol' Sparky. There shouldn't be multiple murderers and serial rapists in prison. The 'social experiment' of "rehabilitation" and all the "kumbaya" feel-good forgiveness has been going on for decades and has *failed*. What kind of insane system not only fails to learn from failure but pushes to expand this wrong headed and demonstrably dangerous paradigm?

  21. Chris Price
    Thumb Up


    @ Hugh Winkler, James Condron, Aaron Cameron, et al...

    This "poor" soul was executed not because of some "computer error" or lax, slack-assed lawyers. He was killed because he brutally murdered a mother of 7.

    His lawyers were attempting to pad their pockets to the last second of this fellow's life. In the meantime probably planning another deluge of endless appeals to spare him further weeks, months, years. I am quite sure the fine citizens of Texas don't mind having one less murderer to clothe, feed and board.

    The moral of this story is don't murder someone in a state that upholds the death penalty. Any mishaps after sentencing is his own dumbass fault.

  22. Tom


    "but a man DIED because his attorneys were 20 minutes over the deadline"

    No he died because he was convicted of committing a murder. His victim never had a chance to file an appeal.

  23. kain preacher

    the issue is

    every one is saying how bad these judges are. Few questions. One if they couldn't print it out did they go to the court. But the most important thing is HOW COME THEY DIDNT PRINT IT OUT>. Until you can answer that question nothing else matters. There is no legit reason why they couldn't of print it out. If the computer crashed they should of back up. cant print its a law office there should be more than one printer, but if not go out and buy one.

    For those that said they judge let the client die to spite the lawyers can you please tell me a legit reason why they could not make they dead line ??

  24. Chad H.
    IT Angle

    A suit?

    Could the family of the dead sue the lawyer for wrongful death due to administrative incompetence? What about the PC company?

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    hate to be a downer, but...

    The guy was convicted by a jury of his peers AND was convicted of killing a mother of 7 children... I wonder if those children and the rest of their family consider him a victim?

  27. Keith Langmead

    @Daniel + many others

    "but a man DIED because his attorneys were 20 minutes over the deadline"

    No, he died because 1) he was convicted of murder, and 2) he was sentenced to death.

    At no point in the story did it mention the appeal being against the death penalty itself, it states that the lawyers were appealing the method which was to be used, eg lethal injection. So unless the story is wrong, what ever happened he was a dead man. At most the appeal would have bought him a little more time, perhaps while the state dusted off the electric chair.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I were Michael Richard...

    ...I would be inclined to query his lawyer's bill...

  29. Jason Harvey

    @ (too many to list)

    or perhaps I happen to know a bunch of lawyers here in Texas (yup, I live in Texas) that are lazy, corrupt, used to doing under the table deals and breaking all the rules and getting away with it.

    and for you sensitive types out there (probably everyone who decided to bash me for being a little cynical), don't read the [rant] section... it'll just piss you off more because of your way too liberal sense of be nice to everyone and don't make anyone face the consequences of their own actions. *wink*wink*nudge*nudge*

    [rant] Yeah, the guy was on death row and why? because he was convicted of a crime and received death as his sentence. If you agree with the death penalty or not is not the point, so get off your horse, it's running the wrong way. The legal system has its problems (duh!) but without it, things would be worse. If we tear down the legal system one brick at a time by bending the rules here and there, you end up with the school system where everyone is passed on to the next grade and patted on the head even if they're a complete failure. You have to draw the line somewhere. If the lawyer was really that hard up for printing time... go to a print shop and let them speed print all the legal stuff... or better yet, get it done a few hours ahead of time instead of working towards just in time. I'm sick and tired of people who want to be all nicey nice to everyone including those who need a swift kick in the arse to get their act together. People need to stand up and face the consequences of their actions. WLCOME TO REAL LIFE and all that. There's no such thing as a do-over, just a face it and learn to do better next time. Get a clue people! [/rant]

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe, just maybe...

    This could be avoided if we accept that killing somebody is wrong. Period.

    If it's so wrong, I see no reason to allow the state to do it.

    "Thou shalt not kill" does not carry a rider that says "unless you're running for the Senate/Congress, in which case it's OK."

  31. b166er

    ZOMG Rick Brasche

    You just come right out and say it pal!

    Presumably with god as your witness, you give yourself the right to take someone elses life, hypocrite.

    Why did this man kill this woman? As horrible as these things are, exactly who is to blame? The man, the parents, society?

    We can't answer that, and we don't know how to stop these things from happening, so we do the next best thing, remove them from society.

    Perhaps one day, we will understand why these things happen, and maybe we'll be able to stop them happening.

    Maybe you should be removed from society, you appear to be a psychopath.


  32. Anonymous Coward

    Cost of appeals, quality of legal defense,etc.

    1. The system would be less expensive without the death penalty (no extensive appeals to pay for, etc.) and there would be less grand-standing by district attorneys, governors, etc. running for higher office.

    2. Lawyers on the appeals side are usually pro bono and have many errors to correct by the over-worked, under-paid (and sometimes totally incompetent) lawyers who handle the original trials. Poor representation in the original trial is quite common and has been the subject of some recent studies and papers (don't have the numbers here). The most famous study I believe was conducted by students at Northwestern University in Chicago and led directly to the reversal of many convictions (not just the sentence but the police had arrested innocent people and essentially framed them for the crime). The situation led the governor to stay all executions until all of the sentences and cases could be reviewed. I don't know what the situation is now. Scott Thurow (author of Presumed Innocent and some other great novels) had some peripheral involvement in some of the cases, I believe but can't point to any proof.

  33. Jim Wilson

    Texas leads us all

    Several years back a review showed that Texas averaged more executions a year than the next 19 states combined.

    That is the way it goes when you are nearer to Jesus.

  34. dave butler

    This Sucks

    It does not matter what he did. Or haw his sentence was derived, as many Supreme Court justices have said , very few people with competent representation recieve the death penalty. In a country going around the world killing people with impunity while espousing Chrisian Values this sucks. He may have been an arsehole but who are you to kill him ?

  35. Cory Shawn Edwards

    It's Texas.

    Who are we kidding here? They weren't going to be humane. If I've learned ANYTHING living in Texas, it's that Texans will hang a 9 year old if they can find a way to justify it. He was getting dosed regardless.

  36. Thomas Binney

    Put to death because his lawyers couldn't print?...

    Wow that IS a harsh state.

    Wait... what's that? Murderer? Convicted Murderer? OHHH now it makes a bit more sense.

    This was a convicted killer. HE KILLED A MOTHER OF SEVEN 21 YEARS AGO! Don't blame his lawyers, don't blame the judge. Don't like the death penalty? I don't really care for it either, yet I can say with all certainty if anyone ever murdered the mother of my two children OR either of my two children, one of us wouldn't live to see the trial- so I'm a hypocrite.

    Yes, the US has the most f'd up legal system this side of the third world. Yes, we have more people in our prisons than many of you have in your whole country. No, I don't know why this guy decided to kill Marguerite Lucille Dixon, aged 53 and likely well loved by most if not all of her seven children. But please let's remember he put himself in that position, not the lawyers (who if they had any REALISTIC appeal other than the automatic one granted for filing the forms would have had it in weeks ago if not years ago) not the judge (who does sound like a right-wing bitch BUT at least she was following the law) not the hardware or the software.

    As for me, I'm THIS close to moving to Canada, probably at the start of G.W.s third term.

  37. Marco

    Re: @ (too many to list)

    Mr. Harvey, as you live in Texas you should know that being convicted there doesn't necessarily mean you commited the crime.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Bear the burden, you bastards

    If you must have the ultimate penalty then damned well bite the bullet and roster a member of the judiciary (and the legislature, and the police, why not?) to sit in vigil till the very last second of the criminals life.

    Whether you are afraid of last minute defense shenannigans or missing happy hour, it does not matter. Stop trying to marry capital punishment to ambivalent bureaucratic procedure.

  39. Walter Brown
    Thumb Down


    Ok Folks, lets keep this between the lines of reality, and not go rumor-monger this in to something its not, the state of texas did not kill that man becuase his lawyers screwed up, they did not kill him because of some missed deadline...

    The state of texas killed him as punishment for the brutal murder of a nurse and mother of a small herd...

    it had nothing to do with the fact that his lawyers were too cheap to buy a second printer, or too stupid to quickly think out an alternate plan, or too lazy that they waited until the 11th hour and tried to beat a deadline...

    If you think about it in a logical sense, if that judge refused to extend the deadline, standing her ground so firm, exactly how far do you think that appeal was destine to go with that judge... all she did was save herself from having to tell him no, i'm going to kill you, one last time....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Thou Shalt Not Kill

    In different bibles (I thought it was the word of God, untranslated?) it states Thou Shalt Not Murder.

    Kill & Murder being two seperate things with the same outcome (somethings dead at the end)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Texas is a state where the retarded live and judge each other, kill each other, and then others kill them, all that death and they learn nothing because you know when you're retarded your capacity for learning is very low.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gives a whole new meaning to

    BSOD, doesn't it?

  43. Russell Jones

    Taking a life is always bad.

    I do not believe that what this judge did was ethically right. She was as much at fault in ending a person's life as the defendant was.

    Ending a life is bad no matter what. You are violating that person's right to life.

    Even if that person is a killer himself or herself.

  44. Eric Olson

    @ Everyone

    The issue at hand, the lawyers screwing up and the unforgiving Presiding Judge, combined to hasten the end. Texas, however, would have killed him anyway.

    Fact: Most states that use lethal injection as a means of execution placed blanket stays on executions once the Supreme Court took up the argument that it violates the 8th Amendment ("Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.") Texas refused such a consideration, and in fact proceeded to deny the appeal of one inmate to stay the execution until the outcome of the Supreme Court case had been decided (they have since realized it sets a bad precedence). Note that it was not to commute the death penalty, or to have a retrial. It was only to stay the execution until the Supreme Court had decided if lethal injection was unconstitutional or not. True, if it had been, a new execution would have had to been decided and approved before the inmate could have been executed, possibly granting him a year or two extra on death row before death. Big deal. This in itself shows Texas's rush to condemn a person to death, and to fast track them to the grave, regardless of what the highest law in the land has decided. Tradition, I believe, dictates that states will forgo something until the Supreme Court has determined if that action is allowed or not. Not Texas. They are a country unto themselves, in their mind.

    So, this action, on both the lawyers and judges part bring into stark contrast just how broken the law enforcement structure is, specifically in Texas. Bad public and pro bono lawyers, who might not be able to pass the bar in other states, and judges who still think it's the frontier, and they are the sole barrier to chaos. This is a state that fought tooth and nail to still be allowed to execute the retarded (below 85 on an IQ test) and to try and sentence juveniles to death, and execute them a soon as possible after that. Nevermind that the former group is, well... retarded and probably should have been in supervised care, or assisted by family (or gov't, lacking family), and the latter group has been shown time and again to lack the inhibitory processes of the frontal cortex, and more prone to rash, unthinking behavior. Punish them, yes... kill them? Yeah, I guess if you are 15 and you screw up once, you're dead in Texas (unless you're black or Hispanic... you might not even make it to court then).

    Needless to say, whether you support or want to abolish the death penalty, this miscarriage of justice from beginning to end can't make you feel good. If you support the death penalty, quasi-legal and extra-judicial issues cannot make you sleep well at night, because they could bring the whole system down, and if you don't support the death penalty, you see yet another reason that the system is broken. After the fact exonerations never look good, either, and further proves that since the judicial system is run by humans, it will have error, bias, and outright cheating, and it's hard to set someone free if they've been buried in the ground for 3 years.

  45. Gleb
    Thumb Down

    Capital punishment

    Any country with capital punishment must be out of its effin mind.

  46. Dam
    Dead Vulture

    Re: what an attitude


    "Don't you just think a little leeway could have been granted when a person's life is at stake ?"


    Oh my god a murderer's life was at stake...

    What about the victim who was mother of _seven_, what about her children ?

    That's just pathetic, if the guy was convinced using hard and founded evidence, there's no reason he shouldn't have been executed.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What this story needs

    is a detailed account of what the "computer problem" was, and how it was eventually solved.

    What I could happily do without is a bunch of murderous yanks going on about how the murderer deserved it and how the victim never got such cushy treatment - not because I find that attitude irrational and stupid (though I do) but because it's extremely boring and unoriginal and I've heard it already from several million other Internet idiots. I swear if someone ever tells me that stuff in real life then I will vomit onto his or her face. It's the only language they understand. :-)

  48. Anonymous Coward


    This time, a deadline was really a deadline.

    BTW, I love this "I'll get my coat" icon. :)

  49. Chris Cheale

    Death Sentence

    Birmingham six, Guildford four - and no, that's not a footie score.

  50. Iain Cartledge
    Thumb Down

    I thought...

    the court could only convict if there was "no reasonable doubt", so sentencing a man to death and ignoring an appeal is bad whether you're pro or against capital punishment. Whether you're all for capital punishment or not, suggesting that once a person is convicted appeals are worthless because he "must have done it", history has time and time again shown us that this simply is not true, and that if the appeals process was more thorough, or if humans were less fallible it might not be a problem, but until it is, giving someone a few more hours for the chance to save their life doesn't seem like a problem really?

    The real problem I have with capital punishment is that the criminal justice system's purpose is punishment and rehabilitation (it is in the UK anyway), making it about revenge fulfils neither of those goals. Anyone who says "he killed a 21 year old mother of seven, he deserves to die" is asking for revenge, not punishment. I'd like that person to be punished appropriately, and I'd also like to give them the chance to realise what they had done wrong. Go watch 21 Grams or Things to do in Denver When You're Dead. Good films, and make a better point than I ever could.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How do find Texas?

    From where I live you go east until you smell it, and south until you step in it.

  52. Jason Harvey

    liberals are funny... these comments prove it

    save the trees and murder unborn children... save the murderers and strip the justice system of their ability to carry out justice. Gotta love it.

    so you would have us keep all the murderers alive with the possibility that they will get parole or escape from prison one way or another and kill more people? savvy that logic... keep the murderers alive and keep killing babies that are unborn. it's beyond my ability to comprehend that level of insanity. it's no wonder the world is going to hell in a supersonic jet... we care for the criminals but not the children. I see where the priorities are and I have to say I don't like it. to coin a phrase...


    I'll tell you where the love is... it's in the wrong place. time to wake up people. Time to get a clue. It's time to care about what's right and good instead of what's bad and ugly.

    dead horse? until abortionists renounce their faith in murder of the unborn, no. and I find nothing that defines being put to death as murder. Murder is defined as the unlawful and intentional killing of a human being by another. it's funny how all the liberal nut jobs want to take unlawful out. They always want to take the law out of their way when it doesn't suit their purposes instead of facing the consequences. Absolutely laughable.

  53. chris

    who is to blame?

    >a computer problem meant they couldn't print

    I bet they were using windows. While I suppose the EULA would say otherwise, the evil M$ empire takes an ever greater toll on humans... ;o)

    @ Jason: >until abortionists renounce their faith in murder of the unborn..blahblah

    Until the religious right stops supporting indiscriminate wars all over the world (the Iraqi civilians are not murdered either I suppose, they are just killed, right? BTW, when was thou shalt not kill replaced by thou shalt not murder in the american bibles? I bet it is quite recent) their stance on abortion is laughable.

    And I am not even talking about the parody of Justice that leads to so many innocent citizens being legally killed. I am all for the death penalty for confirmed murderers, so I am not quite a tree-hugger. Trouble is, we can never be sure (as so many police setups and trial errors have shown.

  54. Steve Roper
    Dead Vulture

    Bible quotes and vengeful nutjobs

    First, to those who point to that passage in the Bible (in Exodus to be precise) that says "Thou shalt not kill" and ask what is so hard to understand about it, may I direct your attention to the verses that follow it later in the chapter. There are a fair few in there that go something like:

    "And whosoever ...<insert any of several Biblical infractions here>... shall surely be put to death."

    So the Bible is quite unequivocal in distinguishing between murder and execution, with or without PC translations.

    Second, it seems there are a few bloodthirsty right-wingers here who are very willing to get stuck into so-called "liberal nutjobs", and who seem to think that justice = vengeance. To those I say: the world would be a much better place without the likes of you, as much as it would be without murderers. How has the death penalty reduced murder exactly? That's right, it hasn't stopped people from murdering each other one iota. All it does is satisfy your thirst for vengeance. It solves nothing.

    Instead of just speeding these murderers to the death chamber, how about studying them, like lab animals, instead? Learn from them what makes a murderer, what conditions cause one to behave like this, then address the social issues that give rise to these crimes. Or would that be striking too close to home where you could be slaking your own bloodlust calling for more executions?

  55. John Prew

    Think of the colleagues

    Personally i feel sorry for the judges, having to stay late because the presiding judge didn't bother to tell them she wasn't extending the deadline. Talk about a wasted evening.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021