Sunday, August 31, 2008

Delaying the truth in Charles Hood case harms pro-death penalty cause

If you don't think judges cover up for one another's misdeeds, consider the case of Charles Dean Hood, a convicted murderer who's scheduled for execution next month despite evidence that the judge and the Collin County DA engaged in an extramarital affair during his 1990 trial. Judge Verna Sue Holland went on to serve on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where eight of her former colleagues this summer ruled that Hood could not force her to answer for the alleged misconduct. Her ex-husband, now deceased, and a prosecutor who worked there at the time have said the pair were sleeping together.

So Hood's lawyers pursued a novel civil suit to get to the truth, but now another Collin County judge has set the hearing for two days after Hood's scheduled execution.

Meanwhile, Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey notes that "the two people who have absolute knowledge of the truth remain silent," writing that:

Three years ago Judge Holland told reporter Alan Berlow, whose piece on the alleged affair appeared on Salon.com, that it would be "unethical to comment" on a pending case.

That's absurd.

Houston lawyer Lillian Hardwick, who co-authored the Handbook of Texas Lawer and Judicial Ethics, says she can think of no ethical reason Holland can't come clean.

"In fact, the Texas Code suggests just the opposite, as applied to what she did on the bench and off the bench, while a judge," she said.

This is an instance where politicized pandering over the death penalty has prevented an honest rendering of the case. Those who most ardently support the death penalty seem to think that if Hood is executed, they "win," so they want it to happen without delay.

That's a foolish stance that's doomed to backfire. Holland's friends on the bench can't protect her indefinitely from having these misconduct allegations publicly aired. As I wrote in the comments on Friday, "this game of chicken is bigger than Charles Hood. Now we know the affair is still likely to be exposed even if it happens posthumously on behalf of Hood's estate.

"So the question becomes: Do Holland and [former DA Tom O'Connell] want to wait until the deed is done to reveal a conflict which would have easily granted Charles Hood a mistrial if true? My guess is they'd be disbarred over it. If the affair occurred, and if it didn't one can't help but believe they'd deny it, the pair will be doubly disgraced, both as adulterers and unethical barristers. Even more importantly in the big picture, they'll have done more to harm the cause of pro-death penalty advocates than any abolitionist ever could.

"One other aside: A lot of people, not just Charles Hood, got convicted in her court during the six-year period the DA was allegedly bedding the judge. These allegations open up many, many cans of worms."

13 comments:

A Jeffersonian said...

How many other such cases there, and how many thousands of times is this same scene repeated throughout the state?! I am guessing that under the same scrutiny, there would be many similar incidents throughout our justice system. Perhaps this issue should be looked at more closely.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

I didn't know whether to laugh or to throw the paper across the room when I read Casey's column this morning.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is absolutely in relations to what the current Collin County DA and their judicial system offer. I covered the story for youth Airick Browning and the DA and Judge in that matter and the trial was a modern day lynching. I have researched Collin County ever since this.....and have found nothing but pride, arrogance and faulty witness testimony, bed buddies and injustice. Especially towards to miniorities. This case is no different then what I have found in the above mentioned case to the other cases that I have researched coming from Collin County. The current DA is not a quality person nor are the judges. Hence,the current issue at bar and the current issue regarding Judge Mark Rusche. This is how this county operates. They believe they are above the law and equally ridiculous in the practice. They need to be investigated - and their cases researched and review for exonerations or over punishments. Then sanction the judge that scheduled the hearing 2 days AFTER the alleged execution as that only reflects their lack of quality and search of justice.

rage said...

Well, by delaying the hearing I think he's pretty much guaranteed a stay of execution.

If not, our CCA is corrupt beyond repair.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I think it's now up to the Governor, rage - the CCA already denied his final habeas appeal. To my knowledge, though IANAL, there's no other venue for the CCA to consider a delay.

rage said...

The CCA was told of this conflict and still denied it?

Or they denied the usual "last ditch effort" based on the facts of the case and death penalty, generally?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The CCA was told of this conflict and still denied it?"

Yes sir. Of course, it's just a coincidence, I'm sure, that Judge Holland was on the CCA and served with 8 of its current members.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. Is this something that is legal? How in the hell can the Plaintiff in the civil suit, offer anything if he is dead? And then, it is almost an obvious set up...that if he is dead...they don't have to answer. I see by the write up though, that the CCA tried to turn the blame on his attorneys citing the length of time they had the knowledge of the alleged affair versus the time the attorneys took to file...it is absolutely ridiculous. Governor Perry has not shown himself worthy in decision making so I am not optimistic that a stay will happen. And the CCA is corrupt in all their answers and decision making abilities. It is a shame.

hungry said...

CCA tried to turn the blame on his attorneys citing the length of time they had the knowledge of the alleged affair versus the time the attorneys took to file...it is absolutely ridiculous.

Its not ridiculous when you understand that death penalty attorneys are notorious for sitting on outrageous unfounded arguments until the last minute.

Good arguments that might actually work get used first because they stand a chance of getting the guy off death row. Bogus arguments are stockpiled and used one at a time as the execution date draws near. The strategy is to raise the argument only after there is not enough time for its merits to be fully considered in time for the the exectuion date. This delay forces the court to stay the execution and a new date must be scheduled... because of the backlog the new date is always months or years in the future. This is done in the vain hope that the death penalty will once again be ruled unconstitutional like it was in the 70s before lethal injection. If you are on death row when that happens your sentence is automatically commuted.

That said, the only fair thing to do is execute the judge and Mr. Hood.

/Paging King David...

Anonymous said...

It could never happen in San Antonio, have you ever seen D. A. Reed? There is no way, Jose!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

hungry, why don't you make your arguments using the specifics of this case instead of what you think happens generally in capital cases? The civil judge ruled there was enough evidence to justify a hearing. Do you know of anything about this particular case that says he's wrong?

Also, in the context of this discussion, King David was an adulterer and a murderer ... pray tell why, exactly, are you paging him?

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