Death Penalty

Hood Seeks Habeas, Says Judge & Prosecutor Considered Marriage

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Lawyers for a convicted Texas murderer who narrowly escaped execution earlier this month have filed a habeas corpus petition in the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas.

The judge and prosecutor in his death penalty case not only admitted earlier this month, after being ordered to give depositions by a state-court judge, that they had had an affair, but said they had considered marriage, according to a Texas Defender Service press release. In the petition, Charles Dean Hood asks the appeals court to grant him either a new trial or remand for new proceedings, saying that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated by the secret relationship.

“There is no dispute that Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell were engaged in a long-term, intimate sexual relationship prior to Mr. Hood’s trial and did not disclose that fact to Mr. Hood or his counsel,” the press release states. It describes the “damage to Mr. Hood’s constitutional right to a fair and impartial tribunal” because of the relationship as “obvious and egregious.”

Lawyers for the now-retired judge, Verla Sue Holland, and Tom O’Connell, who formerly served as the Collin County district attorney, “have declined to discuss the depositions, citing a gag order,” reports the Houston Chronicle in an article about the habeas petition. “Neither the judge nor the former prosecutor has been publicly disciplined by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct or the State Bar of Texas.”

The press release (PDF) says five execution dates were set for Hood without either Holland or O’Connell voluntarily disclosing their affair, and the two have been severely criticized by a number of observers concerning both the secret relationship and their subsequent silence about it.

Earlier coverage:

ABC News: “Outrage at Courthouse Affair”

Associated Press: “Legal experts slam Texas judge-prosecutor link” “Prosecutor and Judge in Capital Case Admitted Affair, Lawyers Say” “Texas Judge Halts Planned 6 PM Execution, Appeals Court Overrules, Clock Ticks”

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