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Lawsuit Against Judge Who Prevented Last-Minute Execution Appeal

HOUSTON (AP) _ A lawsuit filed against a judge who prevented a convicted killer from making a last-minute appeal by not extending office hours has been withdrawn from one court and moved to another, an attorney for the inmate's widow said Saturday.

The original lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Houston, accusing Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller of violating Michael Richard's rights by preventing his attorneys from filing an appeal hours before his execution.

A notice of dismissal filed Thursday offered no explanation, but on Saturday civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen said that he wanted the lawsuit moved to Austin because that's where Keller's court is.

Marsha Richard's husband, Michael, was executed by lethal injection in September. He was convicted in a 1986 rape and murder, although he insisted he wasn't responsible for the woman's death.

Keller refused to allow her court to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, even though attorneys for Richard had called and asked for extra time to file their appeal.

Richard so far is the only person executed in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to review the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case.

The lawsuit sought an unspecified amount of punitive damages and a court order directing Keller, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals clerk and other court personnel to not stop the filing of emergency death penalty appeals.

Keller had declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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