Legal Ethics

Assistant AG Clashes With Boss in Hood Death Penalty Case

  • Print

A Texas assistant attorney general representing a judge accused of having a romantic relationship with the prosecutor in a death penalty case has filed a grievance against her boss, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Assistant Attorney General Madeleine Connor filed the grievance with the State Bar of Texas on Sunday, three days after Abbott announced he would seek to delay the execution of Charles Dean Hood so claims of the alleged affair could be investigated, the Dallas Morning News reports. Connor withdrew from representation of the now retired judge, Verla Sue Holland, the same day that Abbott announced his stance.

Connor refused to release details of the grievance, the newspaper says. Attorney General spokesman Jerry Strickland did not comment on the specifics but said the office must ensure that death penalty cases are handled properly.

“If the allegations of an improper, unethical relationship are true,” he said in a statement, “then the improper relationship between a judge and district attorney is the only action that needs to be investigated by the State Bar of Texas and the Judicial Conduct Commission for possible ethical violations.”

Holland’s private lawyer, Bill Boyd, says he was “appalled” by Abbott’s decision to support a review of the case and that state law required the attorney general’s office to defend Holland. But David Dow, a lawyer for the death-row inmate, says the office should not have represented Holland because she is no longer a judge.

A state judge has set a hearing for this morning to determine whether to order Holland and former district attorney Thomas O’Connell to testify about the relationship. Hood is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

Boyd is seeking to move the case to federal court. Dow and his legal team, on the other hand, plan to file a petition with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that focuses on Holland’s tenure on that court from 1997 to 2001, according to the story. It will assert that Holland recused herself from 80 percent of the cases coming from the county where she served as a trial judge, and the reason may be the alleged affair.

The motion also seeks recusal of the eight judges who served with Holland. “The reason for that is they served on the court with Judge Holland and we believe there is likelihood they have some idea why she would have recused herself in such a staggeringly large number of cases,” Dow told the newspaper.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.