Friday, September 26, 2008

CCA gets another chance to probe ethics of their former colleague in Charles Hood case

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will get another chance to do the right thing and evaluate whether their former colleague Judge Verla Sue Holland's extramarital exploits tainted the 1990 Charles Hood capital murder trial. Hood's attorneys filed another habeas appeal yesterday, even though the CCA previously made it clear they had no intention of reviewing Judge Holland's alleged misconduct before Hood's execution.

Since eight of the nine court members previously served on the bench with Judge Holland, their studied indifference to the now-admitted affair in this writer's view amounted to a stunning ethical lapse. Now, at least, the CCA will get a chance to partially, belatedly redeem itself.

With the new filing, from the Dallas News ("Attorney General defends actions in investigation of affair between judge and DA," Sept. 26) we get more details of the relationship than have been previously reported:

The petition filed Thursday seeking a new trial shed more light on the relationship between Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell. According to the petition, Judge Holland told attorneys it began in 1982 and ended in 1987; Mr. O'Connell recollected it started in 1984 or 1985 and did not end until 1991 or 1992.

The two apparently remained good friends even as the romance waned. As late as 1991, they traveled to Santa Fe together, and Mr. O'Connell attended Judge Holland's family reunion that same year.

The depositions reportedly said both parties professed their love for each other during the relationship. Mr. O'Connell said Judge Holland talked about getting married, but Judge Holland denied that.

Both parties said they kept the relationship secret. "Their sexual encounters took place at each other's homes when their spouses were away," according to the petition.

According to the petition, Judge Holland said during her deposition it was "absolutely not" improper for her to preside over the Hood case. Her attorney has said the romance was not going on at the time of Mr. Hood's arrest and trial.

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott told the News:

that he had expected Texas courts to "step up and do the right thing" by investigating an affair between the judge and prosecutor in the trial of condemned killer Charles Dean Hood.

Only when they didn't, did his office publicly intervene in a case that he says "has called into question the integrity" of the Texas justice system. ...

"A real triggering event was when it was learned that a hearing was set to look into this matter days after the execution was set," he said. It was then that the former Texas Supreme Court judge took public action.

While I'm glad Abbott finally stepped forward when he did, to be honest it was clear long before this recent episode that Texas' highest criminal court did not plan to examine Judge Holland's allegedly unethical bench behavior before Hood was killed. Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey bottom lines the whole mess thusly: "Texas came very close to becoming, once again, a source of national amazement. We very nearly executed a man, only to learn days later that his judge and prosecutor had been lovers." Heck, depending on the CCA's decision, the state may still execute Mr. Hood even knowing that information!


123txpublicdefender123 said...

At this point, I'm just hopeful the CCA will reverse based on the other legal issue, as I hold out no hope they will reverse based on the affair. They don't want to reverse death cases under any circumstances, and they absolutely wouldn't want to do it by blaming one of their former colleagues.

Is there any update on any action being taken against either of these two scumbags? Has a complaint been filed with the State Bar? The Judicial Conduct Commission?

FWIW, I think the judge perjured herself in her deposition. I don't believe for one second that she wasn't still sleeping with the guy when the trial was going on.

dudleysharp said...

Scott, am in full agreement with you on this one.


Anonymous said...

I am to the opinion and position that people are sick and tired of the corruption and really don't speak out anymore. Almost, like an acceptance to accept wrong. Judges and DA's and police, not all, are so corrupt...that is why they attempt to be self righteous and very self serving. Its throw the one that DID get caught under the bus so noone will really no their secrets.