death penalty news—-TEXAS

Aug. 28


Attorneys ask to move up inmate Hood's hearing, set for after execution

A state district judge has scheduled a hearing on whether to require
depositions from the judge and prosecutor in the Charles Dean Hood death
penalty trial, but the hearing is set for 2 days after his scheduled

Attorneys for Mr. Hood on Wednesday asked Judge Robert Dry to reconsider
the order he handed down last week, asking instead that the hearing be
held by Sept. 3.

Mr. Hood's defense attorneys want to know if the judge and prosecutor were
romantically involved, as has been alleged by at least one former
assistant district attorney, possibly affecting his right to a fair trial.
Mr. Hood is set to die on Sept. 10.

In a letter to defense attorneys, Judge Dry acknowledged that the hearing
would come after Mr. Hood's scheduled execution. But he said he had
separated from the case "any part of this motion that has to do with the
murder conviction," referring it to another district court. He said he
would consider the petition to subpoena trial Judge Verla Sue Holland and
prosecutor Tom O'Connell "strictly from a civil standpoint."

"In reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr.
Hood," he wrote.

Judge Dry, who did not return a call for comment, noted in closing that,
"I know Judge Holland and Tom O'Connell. It is likely that every local
judge knows them." He added he would consider a motion to recuse himself
which the defense declined.

Judge Holland presided over Mr. Hood's trial for the robbery and murder of
Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace in Plano 18 years ago, while
then- District Attorney O'Connell prosecuted it. Earlier this summer, the
former assistant district attorney who made the allegation swore in an
affidavit that it was common knowledge that the 2 were romantically
involved at the time.

Mr. Hood's defense attorneys have tried unsuccessfully to raise the issue
of the alleged relationship's impact on Mr. Hood's right to a fair trial
in criminal courts, so they filed the request for depositions for a
possible civil lawsuit earlier this month in a county court at law. The
county court judge said he didn't have jurisdiction over the case, so it
was assigned to Judge Dry.

Assistant District Attorney John Rolater declined to comment Wednesday on
the latest flurry of filings, citing pending litigation. But in court
filings last week, he said the civil filings were simply another effort to
challenge Mr. Hood's conviction and sentence, which was inappropriate for
civil court.

Mr. Hood's original request that the proceedings be expedited because of
his pending execution "renders transparent his suggestion that he is
legitimately seeking to litigate a civil claim," he wrote.

In their request for reconsideration of the hearing date, defense
attorneys insisted that requests for a reprieve or clemency are civil
proceedings and that the route they have chosen is appropriate.

Despite repeated rebuffs, attorney Greg Wiercioch said he remained

"I still think there's a possibility that he'll give us an opportunity to
talk about whether we should be entitled to these depositions before the
execution date," he said. "So I still think Judge Dry may do the right
thing here."

Mr. Hood narrowly escaped execution in June. Though defense attorneys
failed to persuade a court to halt the procedure, the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice refused to carry it out that night, because it ran out of
time to do so before the death warrant expired at midnight.

(source: Dallas Morning News)