death penalty news—-TEXAS

Sept. 4


Hearing now set for before scheduled execution

A judge moved a condemned inmate's hearing date Thursday so that it's no
longer scheduled after his execution date.

State District Judge Greg Brewer in suburban Dallas moved the date to
Monday, 2 days before convicted killer Charles Dean Hood is set to die.
Brewer's decision reverses a decision by another judge who had set a
similar hearing for Sept. 12.

The hearing will address arguments that Brewer's murder trial was unfair
because of an alleged unethical romantic relationship between the judge
presiding over the trial and the district attorney prosecuting the case.
Brewer ordered retired judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County
District Attorney Tom O'Connell to be ready to be interviewed by lawyers
Monday – if Brewer agrees with Hood's attorney that the pair should be

Brewer's order reverses a decision by another judge, Robert Dry, who set a
similar hearing for two days after convicted killer Charles Dean Hood was
set to die. On Wednesday Dry took himself off the case, citing a "previous
business relationship" with Holland's ex-husband as the reason.

Hood's lawyers contend the alleged secret relationship between Holland and
O'Connell tainted the 1990 trial where Hood was convicted and condemned
for killing a couple at a Plano home.

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 of engaging in a secret affair.

"It certainly is the first step and what we've been asking for all along,
simply the opportunity to argue in front of a judge that we should be
entitled to these depositions before Charles Hood's scheduled execution,"
Greg Wiercioch, one of Hood's lawyers, said. "It doesn't mean we're going
to get the deposition and if we get them that the state won't appeal.

"There's no telling what's going to happen."

Hood, 39, was scheduled to die June 17 but his lethal injection, which had
cleared numerous lengthy last-day appeals to the courts, was aborted by
state prison officials after they ran out of time to carry out the
execution by midnight.

Hood 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 has maintained his innocence. He 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 and that he had permission to drive the car.

Evidence also tied Hood, who had served 2 years in an Indiana prison for
passing bad checks, to the rape of a 15-year-old girl.

Also Thursday, the attorney for another Texas inmate set to die Tuesday, a
day before Hood, said the execution won't take place.

Gregory Wright, 42, faced lethal injection for the 1997 fatal stabbing of
Donna Duncan Vick, a 52-year-old widow, at her home in DeSoto, about 15
miles south of Dallas. Wright was a homeless man taken in by Vick, who
gave him food, shelter and money.

Bruce Anton, Wright's attorney, said the execution date would be delayed
so additional DNA testing could be conducted on Wright's clothing that
Dallas County prosecutors used at his trial to tie him to the woman's

He said the trial court judge would be presented Friday with an agreement
reached with prosecutors.

"I don't anticipate that there's going to be any problem getting it
entered," he said.

"As a practical matter, it's off," he said of the execution.

A 2nd man, John Wade Adams, who also was homeless and a friend of
Wright's, also was tried for the woman's slaying and sent to death row. He
does not have an execution date. Vick regularly ministered to the

At Wright's trial, prosecutors told jurors the 2 men both participated in
the fatal stabbing, then packed up items from inside the house, drove off
in her car and traded the loot for crack cocaine.

A day after the slaying, Adams turned himself in to police, directed
officers to Vick's home and helped in the recovery of her car. DNA tests
of blood on the steering wheel of the car was shown to belong to Wright.
His bloody fingerprints also were found on a pillowcase on her bed.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2007 refused to review his conviction and

(source: Associated Press)


22 judges press Texas governor to delay execution

More than 20 US judges have urged Texas Governor Rick Perry to delay the
execution of a murder suspect who has been granted a hearing that will
take place 2 days after he is put to death, the convict's attorneys said

The 22 judges, including one who served as attorney general under former
president Bill Clinton, wrote a letter to Perry asking him to postpone the
execution of Charles Dean Hood, 39, by 30 days.

"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," they wrote.

Hood is scheduled to be executed on September 10, but a court set a
hearing for September 12 to examine defense arguments that he was not
given a fair trial.

The court will hear testimony from a prosecutor affirming that his
colleague who was prosecuting the case was romantically involved with the
judge who sentenced Hood.

"It is an irrevocable wrong to send a man to his death without ever
hearing this critical evidence," the 22 judges wrote to Perry.

"We have no doubt that this relationship would have had a significant
impact on the ability of the judicial system to accord Mr. Hood a fair and
impartial trial," they wrote.

(source: Agence France Presse)


Condemned inmate's case loses judge—-He had set hearing for killer 2
days after his execution

A suburban Dallas judge who set an important hearing on a condemned
inmate's case for 2 days after the prisoner is scheduled to die stepped
aside Wednesday, leaving efforts to advance the hearing up in the air.

State District Judge Robert Dry in Collin County cited a "previous
business relationship" with the ex-husband of retired Judge Verla Sue
Holland as reason for taking himself off the case of convicted killer
Charles Dean Hood.

"The case is just toxic," Greg Wiercioch, Hood's lawyer, said. "No one in
Collin County wants to touch it."

Dry had set a Sept. 12 hearing on the request from Hood's attorneys for
arguments on whether Holland and a now former district attorney were in a
legally unethical romantic relationship during Hood's trial. Hood is set
to die Wednesday for the slayings of a topless club dancer and her

Holland presided over Hood's 1990 trial. The former district attorney, Tom
O'Connell, prosecuted.

"We're back at square one," Wiercioch said. "We've lost two weeks on this
motion. It's got to be reassigned. Who knows who it will be reassigned

Wiercioch said it's likely an administrative judge for the region, John
Ovard, would have to reassign the hearing. Ovard had overturned an order
that had stopped Hood's execution June 17. Wiercioch had asked Dry to
advance the hearing to Wednesday.

"Here we are, a week out from the execution date, and we're still trying
to get a fair hearing," he said.

Hood was scheduled to die June 17 but his lethal injection, which had
cleared numerous lengthy last-day appeals to the courts, was aborted by
state prison officials after they ran out of time to carry out the
execution by midnight.

(source: Associated Press)


Any last requests? Yes, says death row inmate. Turn me into fish food

The final requests of death- row prisoners facing execution have often
included large orders of pork chops, fried chicken and bucket loads of ice

Never before has an inmate asked for his body to be turned into fish food
and fed to goldfish, all in the name of art. But that is exactly what Gene
Hathorn, a convicted murderer on death row in Texas, has pledged to do if
his final appeal fails.

Hathorn, 47, who was convicted of killing his father, stepmother and
stepbrother in 1985, has given his consent to Marco Evaristti to use his
body as an "art installation" that contributes to a wider project on
capital punishment. Mr Evaristti, 45, a Chilean-born artist who lives in
Denmark, said he would first deep-freeze Hathorn's body and then turn it
into fish food which visitors at the exhibition could feed to a shoal of

Mr Evaristti aims to begin the work within a year if Hathorn is refused an
appeal for the third time and he hopes he can stage the show in America in
a public gallery such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. "Gene
Hathorn's story is a powerful one but it is not his story that is as
important for me as the system that exists in a society such as America's
in such a vulgar and primitive way, the system of killing people like
this. I wanted to raise awareness of the fact there are people killed
legally in our Western civilisation."

Mr Evaristti met Hathorn, who has been on death row since 1985, while
researching the longest serving inmates. He first visited Hathorn in April
this year and has made several trips back to his prison in Livingston.
When he suggested the idea for the art installation, Hathorn apparently
smiled and agreed immediately. "One of the reasons I chose the theme of
fish food is because in his court papers, they considered him a piece of
'human trash'. This is what the court papers called him, with regards to
eliminating human trash. He wants to be a part of this art. It's the last
thing he can do for society and he views it as positive," he said.

Lawyers are doubtful as to whether Hathorn's will which makes the artist
the heir to his body is valid. But Mr Evaristti said: "We are confident
that we can solve this issue before Hathorn is executed … I'm fully
prepared for the legal situation around Gene."

Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department for Criminal
Justice, told The Art Newspaper that a death- row prisoner could "select a
person to handle the disposition of their remains".

In the meantime, Mr Evaristti is helping to raise 125,000 for an
investigation into events surrounding the circumstances of Hathorn's
conviction, in hope that it may lead to an appeal.

The artist said vital details such as the sexual abuse Hathorn experienced
at the hands of his father, an alleged Ku Klux Klan member, was not
included in court proceedings that led to his convictions and the death
penalty. He asked Hathorn to start drawing in prison and he has already
sold 52,000 worth of drawings produced by the convict.

Mr Evaristti said he was in contact with a German company that would be
willing to assist him with the fish-food project. The exhibition will
consist of a large aquarium filled with hundreds of goldfish, which
visitors will be able to feed using food made from Hathorn's body.

It will be part of a wider project by Mr Evaristti, who, in August,
presented a clothing collection called "The Last Fashion", in which 15
models wore outfits designed by him. He stated that those garments were
for death-row prisoners to wear on their execution day, to be offered by
mail order to prisoners whose execution dates are imminent.

He has also designed an execution bed to be shown at the Art Copenhagen
art fair later this month. Mr Evaristti came to international attention in
2000 when he placed goldfish in electric blenders filled with water.
Visitors to the exhibition at Denmark's Trapholt Art Museum could choose
to press a button, turn on the blenders and kill the fish.

(source: The Independent)


Texas Gov. Asked to Stop Execution—-Death Row Inmate Who Claims Judge,
Prosecutor Had Affair Gets Hearing 2 Days Too Late

Nearly 2 dozen former judges and prosecutors urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry
to grant a temporary reprieve to a death row inmate whose claim that the
judge and prosecutor in his case had an affair was scheduled to be heard
in court 2 days after his execution.

A state judge had scheduled a hearing to determine whether Verla Sue
Holland, the judge in Charles Dean Hood's death penalty trial, and former
Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell must give depositions about
their reported affair. But the hearing was scheduled for Sept. 12 — 2
days after Hood is scheduled to die for a 1989 double murder.

Robert Dry, the judge hearing the case, recused himself from the case
Wednesday, citing a prior business relationship with Holland's husband,
throwing an already complicated case into uncertainty again.

Hood's case will be reassigned to another judge, who will decide when to
hold the hearing, said his lawyer Greg Wiercioch.

Wiercioch criticized Dry for only recusing himself after he had made
several important rulings in the case, including setting the hearing date
after the scheduled execution.

"It's disturbing that no one is touching this," he said. "It's a hot
potato that everyone's passing around. We're a week away from execution
and we don't have a judge." Dry could not immediately be reached for
comment Wednesday. In a letter sent to Hood's attorneys last month, he
said he knew Holland and O'Connell and said he would consider recusing
himself if Hood's lawyers asked. They didn't take him up on the proposal.

Holland and O'Connell have not commented on the allegations. Neither
returned calls from ABC News.

In a letter sent today to the Texas governor, 22 former judges and
prosecutors, including the former chief judge of the federal Third Circuit
Court of Appeal and the former attorneys general of Maryland and
Tennessee, called the setting of Hood's hearing date "inexplicable."

If the allegations of an affair are true, they said, Hood's constitutional
right to a fair trial was violated.

"It is an irrevocable wrong to send a man to his death without ever
hearing this critical evidence," the letter stated.

A Governor's Office spokeswoman said Perry had received the letter but had
not yet made a decision in the case.

Hood, 39, was scheduled to be executed in June after the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeal rejected a bid to overturn his conviction, saying Hood had
raised the issue of the reported affair too late in the appeals process
for it to be considered.

After a flurry of last-minute legal filings, the execution was delayed in
June because state prison officials said they had run out of time to carry
out the execution by the midnight deadline.

His lawyers filed a request last month to question Holland and O'Connell
under oath in a civil proceeding as a precursor to a possible civil

Dry scheduled a hearing to decide if Holland and O'Connell can be
questioned, but refused to speed up the process to take into account
pending Hood's execution.

"It is unlikely that these depositions will lead to civil litigation that
will be concluded before the execution of your client," he wrote in a
letter to Hood's lawyers.

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

Collin County Assistant District Attorney John Rolater said Hood's lawyers
"haven't established the right to derail this at this late hour. They seem
to be grossly abusing the system, filing improper motions in improper

A former Collin County assistant district attorney has said in a sworn
statement filed earlier this year with Hood's criminal appeal that it was
"common knowledge" that Holland and O'Connell had a romantic relationship.

Holland, who is now retired, went on to serve on the Court of Criminal

Legal experts have told ABC News that an affair between a trial court
judge and prosecutor would be a clear violation of Hood's constitutional
right to a fair trial.

In a concurring opinion, 4 judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals said
that information about the reported affair was available years ago, but
that Hood's lawyers never raised the issue. They said the affidavit from
the former assistant district attorney didn't add significant new
information about the reported affair.

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, according to the Texas Attorney General's Office.

(source: Axis of Logic)


Jury deliberating possible death sentence for cabby killer

The jury in Alberto Garcia's capital murder case this morning began
deliberating whether he will receive the death penalty after prosecutor
Darla Davis told them that Garcia has violence "hard-wired in his brain."

She asked the jury to consider his more than 20 years of crime committed
at gunpoint. She asked them to consider what the final moments of life
were like for cab drivers Eleazar Hinojosa, 57, and Jon Parrish, 41, who
in 1990 were fatally shot by Garcia in apparent robberies.

"Do you think they told him, 'This is it, this is all I've got'," Davis
said. Do you think they begged him, 'Please don't kill me?' What were the
last minutes of their lives like? What were the last seconds of their
lives like?"

Davis concluded her closing argument at 11:08 a.m.

Davis disputed the defense argument that Garcia is not a threat in prison
and noted examples of longtime well-behaved Texas prison inmates who
suddenly turned violent.

"The questions are when the opportunity comes, will he take it? And then
who is going to be the unlucky soul who comes face to face with this
convicted killer?"

Davis suggested that Garcia killed Parrish first and became covered in his
blood while putting him in the trunk of his cab.

"This is a man who could be covered in a victim's blood and 2 days later
go back and do it again," she said.

In finishing, she said: "There is only one thing in this world that stands
between this convicted killer and his next victim.

"It's a single piece of white paper. It's your verdict form."

Defense lawyer Jon Evans told the jury that Alberto Garcia's life is worth
saving, noting that his wife and her children need him and making a
general argument against the death penalty.

He noted that the United States is one of the few remaining "civilized
societies" in the world that still imposes the death penalty. And he asked
the jury to consider whether their God or their "maker" would fault them
if they chose life instead of death.

Evans told the jury that every night he asks his 6-year-old son what he
did in school today and Evans' son in turn asks Evans what he did at work.

"I am going to say I tried to save the life of one of God's children
today," Evans said.

He paused, took a breath before the jury and said: "I ask you: How would
you answer that question?"

Defense lawyer Jon Evans told the jury that will soon weigh the death
penalty for convicted cabbie killer Alberto Garcia that executing him will
not bring back Eleazar Hinojosa or John Parrish.

"I cant raise the dead. None of us can," Evans said, pointing to family
members of Hinojosa and Parrish sitting in the front rows of the courtroom
gallery. ."The death penalty will not make these folks feel better."

Evans told the jury that the law presumes a life sentence.

Defense lawyer Bill White told the jury in Alberto Garcia's death penalty
case to focus on question number 2, the one that asks them to predict
whether Garcia presents the threat of committing future acts of violence
that constitute a continuing threat to society.

"The society which we are talking about is prison," White said.

He then noted that Garcia has spent about 15 of the past 20 years in
prison and has committed only "minor infractions" and no violence. Those
infractions include a positive test for methamphetamine and a write-up for
possessing a torn bed sheet.

"He's earned every bit of that," White said, referring to Garcias previous
incarcerations. "But it seems to me that the only place where he has been
productive has been in prison."

If the jury answers "no" to the question about future violence then Garcia
would receive life in prison and not the death penalty.

White is standing immediately before the jury and speaking in a low, slow
voicesometimes almost a whisper causing onlookers in the courtroom gallery
to lean forward in their seats to hear him.

(source: Austin American Statesman)


Jurors choose death penalty for Coble

Jurors have once again sentenced triple-murderer Billie Wayne Coble to
death in his capital murder sentencing retrial.

The verdict came after a jury of 7 men and 5 women deliberated for about 4
hours, after hearing witness testimony for 8 days.

Coble, 59, was on trial for the 2nd time in Waco's 54th State District
Court in the August 1989 shooting deaths of Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha
and his parents, Robert and Zelda Vicha, at their homes near Axtell.

Coble spent more than 17 years on death row before a federal appeals court
in New Orleans overturned his death sentence and ordered his retrial on
punishment only. The jurors had the choice of sending Coble back to death
row to await execution giving him a life prison term.

(source: Waco Tribune)