Lawyers ask for hearing before scheduled execution
Attorneys for a condemned Texas prisoner on Wednesday asked for a new
court hearing date because the current one is set for two days after his
Lawyers for Charles Dean Hood, convicted of killing a topless club dancer
and her boyfriend, want the hearing on whether they can question a former
judge and a former prosecutor about allegations of a secret and ethically
They contend the alleged relationship between Judge Verla Sue Holland, who
presided over Hood's capital murder trial in 1990, and the prosecutor,
former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell, tainted the trial.
Hood's scheduled trip to the Texas death chamber on June 17 was aborted by
state prison officials after they ran out of time to carry out the
execution by midnight because of lengthy court appeals.
Last week state District Judge Robert Dry in Collin County scheduled a
hearing on the lawyer's request for Sept. 12, two days after Hood's new
The Court of Criminal Appeals has rejected Hood's efforts to block his
execution on the grounds of the alleged relationship, citing procedural
reasons but not addressing the merits of the accusations.
"The Court should hold a hearing … prior to the scheduled execution,
because evidence gathered from taking the depositions of (Holland and
O'Connell) may serve as the basis for a reprieve request to the Governor
of Texas," Hood's attorneys, Gregory Wiercioch and A. Richard Ellis, wrote
in their motion.
Hood's attorneys want the hearing to be held Sept. 3.
The now-retired Holland, who in the mid-1990s served as a judge on the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and O'Connell, now in private practice,
have declined to address the allegations.
In a letter last week to Wiercioch, Dry wrote that he was treating the
request as part of a civil case.
"In reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr.
Hood," Dry wrote. "The Court is concerned about the sufficiency of your
verification and your reasons for taking the depositions."
Hood, 39, is a former topless-club bouncer who was 20 when he was arrested
in Indiana for the fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, an
ex-dancer at the club, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at
Williamson's home in Plano in 1989.
Hood, who has maintained his innocence, was driving Williamson's $70,000
Cadillac at the time of his arrest. Fingerprint evidence tied him to the
murder scene. Hood contended his prints were at Williamson's home because
he was living there.
During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecution witnesses told of
Hood's rape of a 15-year-old girl and that he had a juvenile and adult
criminal record that included a 2-year prison term in Indiana for passing
(source: Associated Press)
No moratorium on the death penalty's flaws
In 2007, the Supreme Court accepted a case from a Louisiana inmate
challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. This created a
national moratorium on executions that lasted for more than 7 months. Now,
after the longest death penalty moratorium in 25 years, executions have
resumed in the U.S. Georgia executed the 1st inmate, and Texas followed,
executing 8 more people. The next execution in Texas is scheduled for
Sept. 9. Litigation that caused the moratorium did not question the death
penalty itself but rather the manner in which it is carried out. This
forest-for-the-trees approach, however, avoids a fundamental question:
What did we learn during the 7-month-plus postponement? And how should
what we learned influence us as we go forward?
Arizona Judge Rudolph Gerber, who came to oppose the death penalty after
serving on the state's appeals court, recently noted that the moratorium
has had several ripple effects. "Around the country, no judges are staying
up late awaiting the final appeals from the condemned," he wrote in an
op-ed for The Sacramento Bee. "Governors and justices of the Supreme Court
are not worrying that the person about to be executed may be the
exceptional one who is innocent. Prison guards, family members of victims
and of death row inmates, and even the media are relieved of the tension
and uncertainty that each pending execution brings."
"But much of the death penalty system remains unaffected by this hold on
executions," Gerber continued. "Prosecutions, trials, appeals and the
rituals of death row continue to absorb an enormous share of the judicial
system's time and resources. Justices from some of the states' highest
courts have complained about the extraordinary strain this one issue
places on the bench. In many states, there are not enough qualified
lawyers willing to handle the appeals."
Gerber brought a real-world analysis to the issue of capital punishment.
But he could have gone even further. The fact is, our 30-year experiment
with capital punishment has failed. The death penalty system remains
flawed and fraught with blunders, biases and bureaucracies. Blunders,
because too often it convicts innocent people and sends them away to await
execution. Biases, because no matter how much we tinker, we can't get
around the fact that race and class influence who receives the ultimate
penalty. Bureaucracies, because appeals can take decades – and it is the
murder victim's family members who suffer as the appeals of the
perpetrator who took their loved one away wend interminably through the
During the recent moratorium on executions, several notable things
happened. Three states – California, North Carolina and Tennessee –
launched studies of their death penalty systems. Two states, Maryland and
Nebraska, debated abolishing the death penalty in their state
legislatures. A third state, New Jersey, did away with capital punishment
altogether. For the first time in Texas, Rick Reed, a candidate for the
Travis County district attorney's office, ran on a platform opposing
What happened when states paused and contemplated the pros and cons of
this public policy? If anything, more Americans came to question whether
the death penalty is really necessary. And more Texans learned that
without the death penalty, the word doesn't turn upside down, murder rates
don't skyrocket and death-row inmates don't run away from prisons
murdering more people. During this period, more people questioned what we
are accomplishing and if the significant costs of conducting trials and
appeals could be put to better use.
One American who thought so was Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
"The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs
that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it
produces has surely arrived," Stevens wrote in the latest court case.
Stevens – voting to uphold the constitutionality of a specific lethal
injection protocol but expressing his view that the death penalty itself
now violates the Eighth Amendment – saw the forest for the trees. As Texas
rushes to execute more inmates, we all could use Stevens' clarity and
(source: Opinion, The Daily Texas; Hooman Hedayati, a government senior,
is president of Students Against the Death Penalty, member of Campaign to
End the Death Penalty and Campus Progress at the Center for American
Progress advisory board member.
Execution Delayed Again for Soldier Killer Posted: Aug 15, 2008 10:25 AM
CDT Updated: Aug 15, 2008 10:25 AM CDT Video Gallery <1> Execution Delayed
Again for Soldier Killer
The man who killed a Central Texas Army medic back in 1998 had his
execution put-off once again.
Back in October, Denard Mann's life was spared the 1st time. The Bell
County district attorney asked for a stay of execution while the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled on whether lethal injections were constitutional.
Once that was cleared up, his execution moved from January to August 20.
But there was another hitch, Manns doesn't have an attorney to file any
last minute appeals.
That means the family of Christine Robson will now have to wait until
November 13 to watch her murderer die, a full decade after he shot her to
death and left her body in the bathtub of her Killeen home.
(source: KXXV TV News)