Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Former judges and prosecutors: Investigate official misconduct before executing Charles Dean Hood

Here's another dramatic turn of events in the Charles Dean Hood case: Attorneys for Mr. Hood learned today that State District Judge Robert Dry has recused himself. Dry had earlier acknowledged he personally knew both the Collin County judge and prosecutor involved who allegedly carried on a romantic affair during Hood's capital murder trial, but before now he'd refused recusal. (UPDATE: Here's an initial AP report on Dry's recusal, which he announced citing a "previous business relationship with the ex-husband of now-retired Judge Verla Sue Holland.")

No word on whether Dry's decision means next week's hearing will now be expedited to occur before Hood's execution date, which presently is set for Sept. 10. But pressure is mounting for Governor Perry to delay Hood's date with death long enough for courts to investigate allegations of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. Relatedly, this came in today from Hood's attorneys via email:
Today, a letter from 22 former federal and state judges and prosecutors (pdf) from Texas and across the country was delivered to Governor Perry urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve to Charles Dean Hood who is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. The former judges and prosecutors are asking the governor to grant a reprieve to allow the Texas courts to conduct a meaningful review of the allegations of a secret romantic relationship between Judge Verla Sue Holland, who presided over Mr. Hood’s 1990 capital murder trial, and former Collin County District Attorney Thomas O’Connell, who prosecuted the case.

The letter states: “We write because our long experience as jurists and law enforcement officials leads us to believe that justice cannot be served unless the courts are able to consider whether Mr. Hood’s conviction and sentence are invalid.”

Signatories to the letter include: John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; W.J. Michael Cody, former Attorney General of Tennessee; J. Joseph Curran, former Attorney General of Maryland; William S. Sessions, former Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and former Director of the FBI; Kenneth J. Mighell, former United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; Jay Burnett, former Criminal District Court Judge, Texas; and Sam D. Millsap, former District Attorney, Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas.

The former judges and prosecutors say that “Mr. Hood’s claim appears on its face to have substantial credibility.” In June, a former assistant district attorney who worked in the office with Mr. O’Connell filed an affidavit stating that “[i]t was common knowledge in the District Attorney’s Office, and the Collin County Bar, in general, that the District Attorney…and Judge Verla Sue Holland had a romantic relationship.” Mr. Hood’s trial attorney and a private investigator have also signed affidavits corroborating this claim.

To-date, the Texas courts have refused to consider the charges on their merits or allow an investigation before the scheduled execution. Judge Robert Dry of the 199th Judicial District Court has scheduled a hearing on Mr. Hood’s request to take investigatory depositions of Judge Holland and former District Attorney Tom O’Connell on September 12, 2008 – two days after the scheduled execution.

“It is an irrevocable wrong to send a man to his death without ever hearing this critical evidence,” the letter from the former judges and prosecutors states.

Earlier this summer, the nearly 500-member Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and three dozen of the nation’s leading legal ethicists also called Mr. Hood’s conviction into question (pdf). They say the affair constitutes a violation of Mr. Hood’s constitutional rights and must be investigated.
See initial coverage from the Austin Statesman and AP.

Bottom line: If Judge Holland or Mr. O'Connell had once ever denied these charges, the controversy would have died down by now. Their refusal to address these scandalous allegations unnecessarily fueled the fire. Whether the affair occurred or not, it's obvious that the interests of justice were poorly served by their silence.


Anonymous said...

Only a jury can sentence someone to death. The judge can't do it.

Maybe the DA was sleeping with the jury too!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What a judge can do, though, is refrain from sleeping with attorneys while they're practicing before her court.

Would that be too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

Yeah it stinks but did it really change anything for Charles Hood.

Do you know if the case was argued by the DA himself or by an ADA? I guess it doesn't really matter in terms of appearances.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at how ignorant some people are about the workings of or criminal justice system.

The DA has more power over the outcome of criminal cases than you can ever imagine. Read guilty----that's all.

The Judge's job is to see that the prosecutor does not overstep the constitutional rights of the accused in the exercise of his power.

If the Judge and DA are in cahoots (and the fact is they often are)the accused hasn't got a chance. Notice that issues of guilt and innocense are decided in the courts.

If the Judge and DA are sleeping together, that is just going too far. I sure wouldn't want to be in that court!!!! Would you???

Anonymous said...

The most awesome power of the DA is to dismiss or even refuse to file a case. The next greatest power is to plea to a lesser charge like they did in Georgetown today for the police chief's daughter.

A death sentence can only come from a unanimous jury of 12 no matter what the DA or judge have to say.

Anonymous said...

According to local rumor, the alleged affair was carried on for years.

I suspect that one reason the CCA and the local Collin County courts have shied away from pushing for the truth is that if the affair is acknowledged, many, many convictions will be called into question.

The prospect of exonerating or retrying hundreds (is it thousands?) of cases because of "extra-judicial" sex is terrifying the courts.

Bill Baumbach
The Collin County Observer

Anonymous said...

A death sentence can only come from a unanimous jury of 12 no matter what the DA or judge have to say.

And they do it based on evidence that the judge has either ruled is admissible or not, or arguments that the judge either would or would not allow, many times based on her discretion alone. Discretion that would favor the guy whose knob she was slobbing.

Did it have an effect? It owuld be good to know before we execute the guy. The way I read the Constitution, this guy deserves a new trial at the very least. If you ask me, he should go free altogether to punish the state for cheating and discourage future judges from sleeping with future prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

Citizens of Collin County-the most affluent suburb in America-do commonly refer to this kind of behavior as "sleeping together" while it's known in other parts of the country as "Inbreeding." The only duelling that goes on in Collin County's adversarial system of justice is done with banjos.

Anonymous said...

perhaps another analogy will work: what if, after at a big game that your team lost, you found out the referee had been sleeping with the head coach of the opposing team (potentially awkward mental image, i know). I think most fans would cry foul and want the win invalidated for the other team, or at least a rematch. But we're talking about something much more serious than a game here; it's a person's life for pete's sake. The least we can do is let them retry the case, especially since this is all due to a mistake (to put it nicely) on the judge & DA's part, not the defense.

Anonymous said...

Hood was convicted of the 1989 fatal shooting of his boss Ronald Williamson and Williamson's girlfriend, Traci Wallace. Hood was arrested in Indiana a day after the killing. He had Williamson's car, jewelry, camera, wallet, credit cards and clothing on him at the time of the arrest.

Anonymous said...

freenerd. and that makes it all the worse. Because now there is going to be, or should be, a new trial and huge judicial waste of resources. Their crime is not that they put a innocent man in jail, their crime is that they put their own selfish needs for sex and romance above their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the state of Texas. And the even worse crime is that no one in the place said boo about it until now. perhaps you might understand why people who are not in Texas hate Texas so much. There is such a thing a serving the greater good, but I've never met a person from Texas who thought that way. It doesn't matter whether it be their guns or their genitals, it's always "me first."

Anonymous said...

[...] why people who are not in Texas hate Texas so much

Jealousy is an awkward homage which inferiority renders to merit.
- Madame Marie Madeleine Puisieux

Anonymous said...

The indiscretions and constitutional and judicial wrongs by Collin County are known and have been an accepted practice by the attorneys and DA's in that county. The current DA and current Judges are an embarressment to the practice of law. If nothing else, it is morally wrong to send someone to their death, regardless of a jury verdict, without considering all of the facts. 9/03/2008 06:38:00 PM Horndog, what you failing to realize is that the evidence presented in a trial should be untainted, but in the case at bar, it was not. To give affirmation of a relationship between a Judge and an DA and then a man is sentenced to his judicially and morally horrific. I do understand that this man was convicted, but if the allegation and merits meet the standard of judicial violations then he must be set free or retried. The proverbial "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton So, in turn for those that may attempt or openly attempt to disagree with the signatures of desire to grant a reprieve you must always take the stance that if you support injustice - that same injustice may turn around and bite you. It is a hard pill especially since Mr. Hood's conviction is based on what we call a horrific crime. However, Mr. Hood's crime is not on the table. What is on the table is the fact that the Judge and the DA allegedly had an affair and that bedroom pillow talk may or may not have had an influence in his conviction. Plus, take into consideration that this praticular county has been operating and currently operates under clouds of open discrimination, open affairs, open injustice, open constitutional violations, open judical violations and they continue without anyone investigating them. So, then where is the real crime when we as Americans toot the horn of fair and reasonable, and standards above other countries when in fact we become hypercrites and the enemy against our own to self promote or offer a favor because of what we do in the bedroom? Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.
Lord Acton

Anonymous said...

It's all on the jury's hand to decide.

Anonymous said...

If this killer's guilt is not in doubt then granting a retrail is judicial masterbation. It might make you feel good for a while but it won't change anything.

Perhaps they should give him a re-do on the sentencing phase of the trial and see if he gets something besides the needle from a different jury.

Anonymous said...

Can somebody put 03:06's comment in plain English for this redneck Texan? I'm not sure if that's an insult or compliment.

The_SRV said...

I emailed Governor Perry today on another matter of Judicial Misconduct up in Connecticut and the prevention of my coming to Texas to live and in getting the occupational license that I have already passed the test for in Texas in which I wasn't allowed to have due to judicial, prosecutorial, and attorney misconduct in Connecticut.

My opinion on the death penalty as we should have it, but only if the courts are run in a legal, ethical, and Constitutional way. I posted a link on my blog to this post.

I like your blog and I'll be back to read more. -Steven G. Erickson

Anonymous said...

I only hope the apply the law appropriately.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure they will. This things have to dissapear immediately.