Hood Execution Stayed
In the letter to the governor, lawyers for the inmate, Charles Dean Hood, said the former judge, Verla Sue Holland, and the former prosecutor, Thomas S. O’Connell Jr., testified in depositions given late Monday and Tuesday morning that they had a romantic relationship for years.
Whether they were still romantically involved at the time of Hood's trial is unclear, because the judge and prosecutor "had differing recollections about when the affair ended." An independent witness, "a former assistant district attorney, has said the affair continued until 1993." Hood's trial was in September 1990.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals could not bring itself to say that a sexual liason between judge and prosecutor renders a criminal trial unfair. But the court found a different reason to stay Hood's execution, which had been scheduled to take place today. [more ...]
[I]n a surprise move also on Tuesday evening, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, ordered a halt to Hood's execution. The action was not related to the alleged secret romance. Instead, the court stopped the execution pending resolution of an appeal related to the fairness of instructions given to the jury during the sentencing phase of the Hood murder trial. ... "Because of developments in the law [concerning jury instructions], this Court has determined that it would be prudent to reconsider [the court's earlier ruling]," the order says.
A cynic might think that the Court of Criminal Appeals didn't want to embarrass a judge by basing a new trial on her undisclosed affair with the prosecutor. It isn't as though Judge Holland is a stranger to the appellate judges.
The court also denied a motion that eight of the nine judges on the court remove themselves from consideration in the case because Judge Holland had served with them for nearly five years on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
The jury instruction issue may be a convenient way for the court to give Hood some relief -- a new sentencing trial -- on grounds that aren't so messy, thus saving them from criticizing the actions of Judge Holland. We'll see what the court does after it finishes reconsidering its earlier holding on the jury instruction issue.
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