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Court of Criminal Appeals term among statewide races

Nov. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.
Updated Nov. 7, 2012 at 5:07 a.m.

Denis Young, of Victoria, shows his red pickup just before driving to the polls in Victoria. Young has decorated his truck with American flags, and posted a message on the back encouraging others to vote and get involved. Young says his primary message is to save America and to make sure President Obama is not re-elected.

DALLAS (AP) - A judge nicknamed "Killer Keller" by death penalty opponents after she refused to allow an after-hours appeal for a Texas death-row inmate before his execution was re-elected Tuesday.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller defeated defense attorney Keith Hampton, a Democrat who lost his bid for a six-year term and failed to break the GOP's hold on the state's highest court for criminal cases.

All nine members are Republicans. Judges Barbara Parker Hervey and Elsa Alcala also were re-elected to the court Tuesday. Neither had a Democratic opponent.

Keller faced discipline in 2010 for closing the court at 5 p.m. Sept. 25, 2007. Lawyers for condemned killer Michael Richard said they were blocked from filing a last-minute appeal, and he was executed that night for the rape and slaying of a Houston-area nurse.

Keller, first elected in 1994, faced removal from the bench over the court's closure. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct instead issued one of the least severe sanctions, a "public warning," which later was tossed on appeal.

Keller also has appealed a 100,000 fine - the largest in Texas Ethics Commission history - for not disclosing more than 2 million in property and income on her personal financial statements.

In other statewide races:

  • The nine-member state Supreme Court had three seats up for election, including Nathan Hecht (Place 6), the longest-serving member of the court since his 1998 election. He defeated Democratic opponent Michele Petty, a San Antonio attorney, who made an issue of a $29,000 ethics fine levied against Hecht in 2007 for an illegal campaign contribution. Hecht appealed, and the case is still pending.

  • Republican incumbent Don Willett (Place 2), who did not have a Democratic opponent, also was re-elected. Former state District Judge John Devine of Houston, who gained attention for fighting to keep the Ten Commandments on display in his courtroom, was elected to the Texas Supreme Court (Place 4) after he defeated incumbent Justice David Medina in the primary. Devine did not have a Democratic opponent.

  • The state Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas, had two seats on the ballot. In the open seat in Place 1, Republican Christi Craddick, an oil and gas attorney and daughter of former House Speaker Tom Craddick, defeated Democrat Dale Henry, a licensed petroleum engineer and former Mills County commissioner, for the six-year term. Commissioner Barry Smitherman, a former Public Utility Commission chairman, was elected to serve the remaining two years of his Place 2 term. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Smitherman to the commission last year when Michael Williams resigned to run for Congress.

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