death penalty news—–TEXAS

May 30

TEXAS—-impending execution

Charles Hood is scheduled to be executed in Texas on June 17th. He was
sentenced to death in 1990 for the murders of Ronald Williamson and Tracie
Lynn Wallace in 1989. Recently, the trial court recommended that he get a
new sentencing hearing, but that recommendation was rejected on purely
procedural grounds. Urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to support
clemency for Charles Hood.

URGENT ACTION APPEAL – From Amnesty International USA

30 May 2008

UA 149/08 Death penalty/Legal concern

USA (Texas) Charles Dean Hood (m), white, aged 38

Charles Hood is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 17 June. He was
sentenced to death in 1990 for the murders of Ronald Williamson and Tracie
Lynn Wallace in 1989. Twenty years old at the time of the crime, Charles
Hood has been on death row for nearly 18 years.

Police found the bodies of Tracie Wallace and her boyfriend Ronald
Williamson in Williamson's home in Plano, near Dallas, on 1 November 1989.
Both had been shot. Charles Hood, who had been living in the house, was
arrested in Indiana in Ronald Williamson's car. He was brought to trial in
Collin County in Texas, and after the jury convicted him on 29 August
1990, the trial moved into a sentencing stage, at which the prosecution
presented its arguments for execution and the defense presented mitigating
evidence. As the US Supreme Court reiterated in a Texas case in 2007, "we
have long recognized that a sentencing jury must be able to give a
reasoned moral response to a defendant's mitigating evidence particularly
that evidence which tends to diminish his culpability – when deciding
whether to sentence him to death." (Brewer v. Quarterman).

Hood's jury heard evidence of his mental impairments and other information
about his background. In a near-fatal accident at the age of three,
Charles Hood had been run over by a truck and was hospitalized for five
months. He was left with permanent physical injuries, and his parents
noted behavioral changes too. As a child, he developed a fear of school
that was diagnosed as a phobia of being inside buildings. The jury heard
evidence that his parents administered "whippings" during his adolescence,
sometimes in an attempt to get him to go to school. Hood had learning
disabilities, and required special education classes at school. He dropped
out of school after failing seventh grade (age 12-13 level), and he later
failed the US Army entrance examination three times. At the age of 18, his
reading and math skills were assessed at falling below the sixth grade
level (age 11-12), and his language and writing skills put at the level of
an eight- or nine-year-old. At the age of 19, Hood was described in an
Indiana Department of Corrections report as acting "like a little kid who
has been maintained in a fosted [sic] dependency situation," and was
"somewhat neurotic," phobic, "very immature emotionally," and "highly
dependent." The jury also heard evidence that a psychiatrist had concluded
that Charles Hood had significant brain impairment, causing learning
disabilities, impaired judgment and poor impulse control. He had diagnosed
Hood with"neurophysiological brain dysfunction with probable left temporal
cortical and deep temporal limbic brain dysfunction."

After hearing the sentencing phase evidence, the jurors were required to
answer two questions ("special issues"), on deliberateness and
dangerousness; firstly whether the defendant had acted deliberately and
with the reasonable expectation that the death of the victims would
result, and secondly whether there was "a probability that the defendant
would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing
threat to society." Affirmative answers to these questions would
automatically result in a death sentence. The Texas sentencing scheme had
been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1989. In the case
of death row prisoner John Penry, the Court found that the "special
issues" had given the jury nowhere to give effect to Penry's mitigating
evidence by saying "no" to the death penalty. At the time of Charles
Hood's trial, the Texas legislature had not yet amended the capital
statute to comply with the Penry ruling, and Hood's jury were asked the
same questions as Penry's had been. As in other trials conducted in that
intervening period, the trial judge issued the jury with a "nullification"
instruction, telling the jurors that they could vote against the death
penalty if they believed it was an inappropriate punishment in the light
of any mitigating circumstances. However, the jury verdict form did not
mention mitigating evidence, only asking for answers to the two questions,
without any explanation as to how the jurors could vote against the death
penalty if they believed the answer to both questions was "yes."

In 2004 and 2007, the US Supreme Court overturned four Texas death
sentences on questions relating to whether the juries had been prevented
by the Texas statute (before it was changed, post-Penry) from giving
effect to the mitigating evidence. In Smith v. Texas, for example, the
Supreme Court found that the nullification instruction had not cured the
constitutional violation; rather, "in essence the jury was instructed to
misrepresent its answer to one of the two special issues" if it wanted "to
take account of the mitigating evidence." In Tennard v. Dretke, the Court
held that on the "deliberateness" question, the evidence of the
defendant's low intellectual functioning short of mental retardation had
"mitigating dimension beyond the impact it has on [his] ability to act
deliberately." On dangerousness, in Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman the Court
ruled that the evidence of the defendants childhood neglect and lack of
self-control "did not contradict the State's claim that [he] was a
dangerous person, but instead sought to provide an explanation for his
behavior that might reduce his moral culpability"- that "his violent
propensities were caused by factors beyond his control." In its decision
to uphold Hood's death sentence, a federal district court noted that the
mitigating evidence of Hood's mental impairment was a "double-edged sword"
because, despite reducing his moral culpability, the jury could have
decided that it increased the probability of his future dangerousness.

In 2005, after the Supreme Court's Tennard ruling, a Texas trial court
found that the jury instructions at Hood's trial had been constitutionally
inadequate and recommended a new sentencing. However, the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals rejected this on procedural grounds. Hood's lawyers asked
it to reconsider, including in light of the Supreme Court's 2007
decisions, but the Court denied this on 14 May 2008.

There have been 1,102 executions in the USA since judicial killing resumed
there in 1977, 405 of them in Texas. In late 2007, the UN General Assembly
passed a landmark resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on
executions. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases,
unconditionally. There is no such thing as a humane, fair, reliable or
useful death penalty system (see 'The pointless and needless extinction of
life': USA should now look beyond lethal injection issue to wider death
penalty questions,

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible
(please include Charles Hood's prisoner number, #982):

– expressing sympathy for any relatives of Ronald Williamson and Tracie
Lynn Wallace, and explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner
of their deaths or to downplay the suffering caused;

– opposing the execution of Charles Hood;

– expressing concern that the jury may not have been able to give effect
to the mitigating evidence presented at the 1990 trial, as the US Supreme
Court has found in a number of cases tried before the Texas special issues
scheme was amended by the state legislature following the Court's 1989
Penry ruling;

– noting that a Texas court found that the jury instructions at Hood's
trial were constitutionally inadequate, and that he should have a new
sentencing, but that this was overruled on procedural grounds;

– noting that executive clemency is not restricted by procedural
considerations, as a court may be;

– calling for Charles Hood to be granted clemency and for his death
sentence to be commuted.


Rissie Owens
Presiding Officer, Board of Pardons and Paroles
Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757

Fax: 1 512 463 8120

Salutation: Dear Ms Owens

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Fax: 1 512 463 1849

Salutation: Dear Governor



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An online action for Charles Hood, scheduled to be executed by Texas on
June 17, is available at:

The pdf of the action is at:

(source: Amnesty International USA)