Hood Execution Stayed

The Texecution of Charles Hood will be delayed, but not because the prosecutor and judge in his case were having an affair. The fact of the affair no longer seems to be disputed.

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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    n=1? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by JamesTX on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 07:37:49 AM EST
    If the judge had been romantically involved with the DEFENSE attorney and this man were acquitted of a capital crime, would you all be rushing to have him retried?

    It sounds like for you that n may be equal to or less than one! For me, there is no comparison. There is a big difference between a botched prosecution and conviction of an innocent. The belief that conviction of the guilty is of equal (or more) importance to justice as protection of the innocent is a misguided sentiment spawned by the conservative movement. The ironic thing is that this attitude was promoted not to make people safe but to create an authoritarian government that would do the bidding of corporations and use the justice system to get unprofitable people out of the "consumer pool".  For me, n is somewhere near 1,000, and that still leaves an awful lot of innocent lives destroyed. That is the effective rate, anyway, since absolute authority tends to erode competence and degrade concerns about justice overall. When you don't have to play fair, then it isn't long before playing fair looks like real burden, and you tend to start seeing your own needs as the only "truth".

    just wanted to clarify (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 12:40:43 PM EST
    I just wanted to clarify whether this was a question of what is legally correct or a question of personal philosophy about the value of a conviction versus an acquittal.  You seem to be saying that one thousand acquittals of guilty people are better than one conviction of an innocent.  
    The constitution doesn't directly say that; it is a matter of some debate whether one thousand guilty murderers who were acquitted wouldn't commit ten,twenty, or more repeat murders (plus other violent crimes) of innocents when they were freed, thus leading to a net loss of life of innocents.    

    sorry for the delay... (none / 0) (#5)
    by JamesTX on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 05:17:40 PM EST
    but I didn't see this post.

    I never said the constitution mentioned it or that there is even any agreed upon standard. Clearly, the difference comes down to the type of ethical reasoning one employs, and the reasoning used by those in power changes from time to time. Thus, there is no standard.

    What I said is that n=1000 for me, or in my opinion that is the most ethical approach. Why? I don't buy into your "net loss" argument. I think it is a utilitarian argument, and I am a Kantian thinker. The argument has all the same problems that other utilitarian arguments have -- it places overall net happiness above rights and dignity of individuals.

    If someone is going to murder me, I have a chance. I can fight back. The constitution didn't guarantee my safety, either. It only guaranteed my freedom. If the state attacks me, I have no chance, and if the state puts me down when I am innocent, I think the fate is worse than being murdered. It is a much more terrible experience. I do not have the right to insist on the execution of an innocent to make me more statistically safe, or to improve my "net chances". That is wrong. Absolutely wrong. Very, very, wrong.


    Good golly, (none / 0) (#1)
    by eleanora on Wed Sep 10, 2008 at 07:37:19 PM EST
    that's quite a conflict of interest they had there all around. I'm not sure how just a new sentencing trial is going to be enough; you'd think they'd have to give him a new trial full stop.

    unfair? (none / 0) (#2)
    by diogenes on Wed Sep 10, 2008 at 10:15:03 PM EST
    1.  It would be obviously unfair if the judge were either the trier of fact or the one who imposed the death sentence.
    2.  Otherwise, if the judge made no legal ruling which an appeals court could dispute, this isn't so obvious.
    3.  If the judge had been romantically involved with the DEFENSE attorney and this man were acquitted of a capital crime, would you all be rushing to have him retried?