death penalty news—-TEXAS

June 17


Court orders execution warrant reinstated

A Texas appeals court ordered the reinstatement of an execution warrant
for condemned killer Charles Dean Hood.

The Court of Criminal Appeals said state District Judge Curt Henderson did
not have its permission to act to spare Hood from lethal injection for a
double slaying in suburban Dallas in 1989.

They ordered a supervisory judge to rescind Henderson's reprieve and
"immediately reinstate the death warrant."

Hood's attorneys had 3 unresolved appeals still before the U.S. Supreme

The warrant is scheduled to expire at midnight CDT.

(source: Associated Press)


Execution delayed for Texas death row inmate convicted for Plano murders

After a bizarre day of legal wrangling between attorneys and judges,
including protests from leading legal ethicists over an alleged
relationship between a judge and prosecutor in the trial of Charles Dean
Hood, the Collin County murderers execution was put on hold Tuesday.

The flurry of activity is likely to catapult Texas' death row machinery
back into the center of the capital punishment debate.

Mr. Hood came within 90 minutes of his scheduled 6 p.m. execution. But he
could hardly draw a ragged breath of relief before prosecutors filed an
appeal to have his sentence for a Plano double-slaying carried out. It was
one of many motions and rulings that played out until midnight when his
death warrant was to expire.

Now, The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which rejected a stay to
consider the issue on Monday, is again faced with the issue because of an
unusual move by a lower court judge the order to halt Mr. Hoods date with
the needle came from Collin Countys 296th district court.

The tug-of-war between the lower court and the state's highest criminal
court over whether Mr. Hood got a fair trial and should die is likely to
roil death penalty advocates and opponents who keep a close eye on the
nations busiest death penalty state.

For now, Mr. Hood is spared.

"Oh, my god, I'm so gratified," Larry Fox, former chairman of the American
Bar Association Ethics Committee, who joined other legal experts in
calling for review of the case. I was thinking the headlines tomorrow for
us around the world would be a black mark on our system of justice."

But the legal maneuvering is far from over.

Late Tuesday, The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that lower court Judge
Curt Henderson had no authority to withdraw Mr. Hoods death warrant. But
since Judge Henderson immediately recused himself from further action on
the case, the Texas high court also ruled that it could not immediately
order him to vacate his order.

Instead, a new judge yet to be named would become subject of any order by
the high court to reinstate the death warrant.

John Rolater, the assistant district attorney now handling the Hood case,
declined to comment.

When told Tuesday that his execution date had been withdrawn, Mr. Hood,
38, cried, according to prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.

"I just thank God," he said. "I just walk by my faith. If it didn't
happen, I was going home to the Lord."

Mr. Hood has been on death row since 1990 for the robbery and double
murder of Ronald Williamson and his girlfriend, Tracie Lynn Wallace, in
Plano the year before.

Relatives of the victims at the death chamber waiting to witness the
execution could not be reached for comment.

The brouhaha that left Mr. Hood alive for another day was a relief, if
only briefly, for Andrea Keilen, executive director of the Texas Defender
Service, which is representing Mr. Hood.

"We're glad that it seems like finally this issue might get some serious
attention," she said.

Rumors about the alleged intimate relationship between Ms. Holland and Mr.
OConnell have circulated for years. They have repeatedly declined to

In a letter to The Dallas Morning News in 2000, Mr. Hood wrote, "During my
trial, the setting (sic) judge and district attorney were having a sexual
relationship, a huge ("conflict of interest") yet trial counsel was too
afraid to do anything about it."

The allegations were publicized in 2005 in an article on but had
not been raised at trial or during Mr. Hoods other appeals because
attorneys had no proof, only rumors.

But in early June, former assistant district attorney Matthew Goeller
swore in an affidavit saying the relationship was "common knowledge,"
lasting from 1987 till 1993.

Mr. Hoods attorneys felt that affidavit from a former prosecutor who
worked in the office during the time of the trial offered sufficient
reason to introduce the alleged relationship as a reason to reverse the
conviction and sentence.

"The absence of an impartial judge is a structural defect," they wrote.

But to the dismay of Mr. Hoods lawyers, and several leading legal
ethicists, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to address the
issue, saying the information was not new.

The former assistant district attorney who filed the affidavit "does not
allege that he has any personal knowledge of such a relationship," Judge
Tom Price wrote in a concurring opinion denying the appeal and the stay of

Defense attorneys then turned to Judge Henderson in the district court,
which granted the execution date withdrawal.

Judge Henderson, who was an assistant district attorney in Collin County
from 1979 until 1986, then immediately recused himself.

He asked the presiding judge of the court's administrative region to
appoint a new judge.

Collin County prosecutors responded with the Tuesday evening appeal to the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that argued that the trial court had no
authority to modify the execution date, saying Mr. Hood was engaging in
"gamesmanship" and a "fishing expedition" to find more evidence after the
Court of Criminal Appeals had already ruled.

After the Texas high court seemed to agree but said a new judge needed to
have the case so that Judge Henderson's order could be withdrawn,
prosecutors filed another round of motions asking the Court of Criminal
Appeals to itself set aside Judge Hendersons order and proceed with the

The court had not acted on that motion by about 9 p.m.

"We've never been in this position before," Ms. Keilen said. "I've never
seen anything like this."

"We don't know what's going to happen next but what is equally important
to say is that all of this is quibbling over technical issues in the case
when what we should be talking about is the trial judge and the trial
prosecutor engaged in an affair during a capital murder case."

(source: Dallas Morning News)



A Collin County state district judge has put off the scheduled execution
of Charles Dean Hood for a double slaying in suburban Dallas almost 20
years ago.

In an order signed just over an hour before Hood could have gone to the
death chamber Tuesday night, state District Judge Curt Henderson withdrew
the execution warrant after defense attorneys for the inmate had sought
any correspondence in the Collin County district attorney's office that
could be related to accusations of a long-standing romantic relationship
between one of Hood's prosecutors and the judge who presided over his
trial in 1990.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had refused to consider arguments
about the alleged affair, citing technical reasons that disqualified the

Charles Dean Hood, 38, was arrested in his native Indiana the day after
the 1989 slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at
Williamson's home in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

Hood would have been the second Texas inmate executed in as many weeks as
prosecutors in the nation's most active death penalty state worked to trim
an execution backlog created after all capital punishments in the nation
were stalled for some 8 months by a U.S. Supreme Court review of the
constitutionality of lethal injection procedures. At least 13 other
inmates are scheduled to die in the coming months in Texas, where 26 were
executed last year, more than any other state.

When arrested, the then 20-year-old Hood was driving Williamson's $70,000
Cadillac but insisted he had permission from the victim. Hood said he met
Williamson at the club where Wallace danced, then was hired to do odd jobs
and allowed to live at the computer software firm owner's home.

Hood maintained he was innocent of the murders of Williamson, 46, and
Wallace, 26.

"I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I'm not what they say
I am," he said from death row, where he was known to fellow inmates as

"It doesn't take a biochemist to figure out somebody else commited this
crime," Hood said.

Lawyers argued in appeals that Hood didn't receive a fair trial. His trial
judge and one of his prosecutors at the time of Hood's 1990 trial were
engaged in an improper and legally unethical years-long romantic
relationship they tried to keep hidden, attorneys contended in an appeal
rejected by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court contended jurors received improper
instructions when they decided Hood should be put to death because they
were unable to properly consider his poor childhood and physical and
mental problems. Another appeal questioned whether Hood should have been
entitled to a state-provided lawyer to prepare a clemency request.

Hood said his fingerprints were at Williamson's home because he was living

Evidence showed his prints were on plastic bags taped to Wallace's body,
which had been stuffed into a water heater closet. His bloody prints were
on a weight machine used to block the closet door.

Other evidence showed he used Williamson's credit card to order flowers
for a woman in Vincennes, Ind., where he was arrested, that he had pawned
a diamond ring belonging to Williamson and tried cashing checks from
Williamson's business by forging the victim's signature on the checks.

Hood's prints also were on a note left for Williamson, presumably from
Wallace, when he came home for lunch. But Williamson called police,
worried that his girlfriend had been abducted, because Wallace's name was
misspelled on the note. An officer responding to his call found the
bodies. Both victims had been shot in the head.

"If you murder, you kill, you deserve the same thing," said Julie Wallace,
whose sister was murdered. "For a long time I was very angry. All I know
is that from the day my mother said my sister was dead, I said whoever did
it will pay for it when they stand before God and our justice system. It
may roll slow, but I think justice always is served."

She said her sister, known to her as Sissy, had told her Hood made her
"very uncomfortable, that he did not want to improve his life and was just
there to get what he could get."

"He was being asked to leave, and this is what happened," she said.

During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecution witnesses told of
Hood's rape of a 15-year-old girl, that he had a juvenile and adult
criminal record that included a two-year prison term in Indiana for
passing bad checks. He violated his parole for that conviction by running
off to Texas with an underage girl.

Hood came within two days of execution three years ago before winning a
court reprieve. This was his 5th execution date.

Scheduled for execution next in Texas is Carlton Turner, set to die July
10 for murdering his parents 10 years ago at their suburban Dallas home.

(source: Associated Press)


Texas death row inmate granted reprieve

A former topless-club bouncer condemned for a double slaying almost 20
years ago won a reprieve Tuesday just over an hour before he could have
been put to death, while Oklahoma executed its first death row inmate
since last August.

Charles Dean Hood cried Tuesday when informed he could live.

"I just thank God," he said. "I just walk by my faith. If it didn't
happen, I was going home to the Lord."

State District Judge Curt Henderson did not give a reason for lifting the
death warrant. He later recused himself from the case.

Hood's attorneys lost several last-day appeals, including one in the Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals in which they claimed the now retired judge who
oversaw Hood's 1990 trial, Verla Sue Holland, was having an affair at the
time with the prosecutor assigned to the case, then-Collin County District
Attorney Tom O'Connell.

After that appeal was rejected, lawyers from the Texas Defender Service
filed a motion in Henderson's court seeking all correspondence from the
prosecutor's office that may be related to the alleged affair.

Holland and O'Connell have declined to address the allegations.

Hood, 38, was convicted of murder for the 1989 slayings of Ronald
Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace at Williamson's home in the Dallas
suburb of Plano.

When arrested in Indiana, Hood was driving Williamson's $70,000 Cadillac
but insisted he had Williamson's permission. Hood says he's innocent.
Tuesday's was his 5th execution date.

A de facto moratorium on executions was lifted when the U.S. Supreme Court
upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures in April.

new execution date

Leon Dorsey has been given an execution date of August 12; it should be
considered serious.

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)