The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state's highest criminal court. It hears all appeals of death penalty cases as well as criminal cases decided at the 14 mid-level appellate courts in the state.
The court has eight justices and one presiding justice who are elected to six-year terms.
The soft-spoken and — until now — media-shy presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals sat down with The Texas Tribune last week to talk about capital punishment in Texas, what she was doing on the afternoon she closed her office at 5 p.m. to a last-minute death row appeal, the flaws in the way the state sanctions judges, what it's like to be known as Sharon “Killer” Keller and the "ridiculous" idea that she doesn't care about defendants or indigent defense.Full Story
Fifteen years ago Judge Charlie Baird was one of the justices on the state’s highest criminal court who reaffirmed Cameron Todd Willingham’s death sentence. On Wednesday, Baird is scheduled to begin a process that could determine whether that conviction and Willingham’s execution were wrong. And the prosecution objects.Full Story
Across Texas, defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses are choosing to spend time in the local lockup rather than endure months on probation. They don’t want to deal with the hassle of probation's conditions, and they can’t afford the thousands of dollars in fees that it requires. People on both sides of the criminal justice system agree that the trend is troubling: It’s helping to fill local jails beyond capacity, and even worse, it means that people charged with DWI, possession of small amounts of drugs and family violence are not getting the treatment they need.Full Story
Let's say you served time for a crime you didn't commit: How much is each year you lost really worth? A new law increases the state's payout to exonerees, but the process of getting compensated is its own form of punishment.Full Story
In an unexpected reversal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has thrown out Charles Dean Hood's death sentence on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court appeal and national media attention.Full Story
Even if 84 percent of Americans believe judges should not hear cases from major campaign contributors, the big Texas law firms that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to them over the last ten years see nothing wrong with business as usual.Full Story