Sexual relationship between judge and prosecutor entitles murder defendant to new trial, court rules
Then-Judge Timothy R. Henderson listens to testimony in January 2016 during a sentencing in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that a defendant convicted of murder in 2021 is entitled to a new trial because Henderson and one of the prosecutors had a prior sexual relationship. Photo by Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press.
The top criminal court in Oklahoma has ruled that a defendant convicted of murder in 2021 is entitled to a new trial because the judge and one of the prosecutors had a prior sexual relationship.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled for defendant Robert Leon Hashagen III in a 3-2 summary opinion July 13.
Hashagen was convicted of murder in the death of a 94-year-old woman during a 2013 burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison.
The judge, Judge Timothy R. Henderson, had admitted to consensual “sexual conduct” with the prosecutor that ended before the trial but said the relationship didn’t affect his rulings. The prosecutor was identified only as “K.C.” in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision.
The sexual relationship happened from April 2016 through summer 2018, according to a judge who made factual findings in the case.
Because of the undisclosed relationship, Hashagen was deprived of the right to a fundamentally fair trial that created a potential for bias, the appeals court said.
Henderson resigned his judgeship in spring 2021—after the prosecutor and two other lawyers accused him of sexual misconduct, according to Law & Crime.
Henderson acknowledged a sexual relationship with two prosecutors, but he said it was consensual, according to past coverage by the Associated Press. A special prosecutor declined to bring charges in connection with the allegations.