death penalty news—–TEXAS

Sept. 5



(source: TCADP Newsletter)


Death-Row Inmate Gets Quicker Hearing on Alleged Judge-Prosecutor Affair

A new judge has scheduled a hearing for Monday to consider a Texas
death-row inmate's request for more information about an alleged affair
between the judge and prosecutor in his case.

Lawyers for Charles Dean Hood want to compel testimony about the
allegations from the former judge, Verla Sue Holland, and the former
district attorney, Thomas OConnell.

The former judge in the case, Robert Dry, had set a hearing on the issue
for Sept. 12, 2 days after Hood's scheduled execution. But the judge later
recused himself and the new judge, Greg Brewer, quickly ordered the
hearing, report the New York Times and the Austin American-Statesman.

Brewer's notice of hearing says the parties should be prepared to take the
depositions of Holland and O'Connell immediately after the hearing, if the
court grants Hood's request. The notice also directs the parties to bring
letters, cards, gifts and receipts for gifts that Holland and OConnell
exchanged; photographs and videotapes depicting the 2 together; and text
messages and e-mails from Holland and OConnell commenting on the recent

Siding with calls for a probe into the affair is Texas Attorney General
Greg Abbott. He told prosecutors in a letter that the state will seek a
thorough review of Hood's claims before execution to "protect the
integrity of the Texas legal system," the Times story says.

Abbott's decision comes just 1 day after a group of 22 former judges and
prosecutors sent a letter to the governor of Texas seeking a delay of
execution to allow time to probe allegations of the affair. Among those
who signed the letter are former FBI director William Sessions and 2
former federal appeals judges, John Gibbons and Patricia Wald.

(source: ABA Journal)


Texas attorney general backs inquiry on district attorney, judge in
execution case

The Texas attorney general's office on Thursday took the unusual step of
joining the defense in saying that death row inmate Charles Dean Hood
should not die until after an investigation into an alleged romantic
relationship at the time of his trial between the prosecutor and judge.

Although noting that the facts of the murders of Ronald Williamson and
Tracie Lynn Wallace are not in question, Attorney General Greg Abbott
wrote in a letter to Collin County District Attorney John Roach, "The
impartiality of a defendant's trial and conviction must be beyond

The letter said that the attorney general's office would file a legal
brief today asking that the trial court fully review the matter, even if
it means delaying the execution.

"Because of the unique nature of the issues in this matter and to protect
the integrity of the Texas legal system we will ask the court to
thoroughly review the defendant's claims before the execution proceeds,"
the letter said.

The Hood case has drawn intense scrutiny from legal ethicists, as well as
death penalty advocates and opponents who keep a close eye on the nation's
busiest death chamber.

The case drew national attention in June when Mr. Hood came within hours
of execution as attorneys wrangled over final appeals, including one
related to the alleged romance. Though Mr. Hood was cleared for execution,
his death warrant expired before the sentence could be carried out.

Attorneys stunned

Defense attorneys for Mr. Hood, who have been hammering at the wall of
silence surrounding the alleged relationship, were stunned by the attorney
general's action.

"I had no idea this was coming," said Greg Wiercioch. "I'm just pleased
that the attorney general's office is doing the right thing in this case.
I'm astounded."

Whether the unusual move will save Mr. Hood, who is set for execution
Wednesday for the 1989 slayings, is unclear. The attorney general's office
does not have jurisdiction in the case, but Mr. Wiercioch said the move
should make it easier to obtain a stay of execution from either the
governor or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Defense attorneys say Mr. Hood's trial would not have been fair if the
judge and prosecutor were romantically involved.

Earlier Thursday, District Judge Greg Brewer scheduled a hearing for
Monday to consider whether depositions from former Judge Verla Sue Holland
and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell should be taken
for a possible civil action.

If Judge Brewer grants the defense request to take depositions, they would
be taken immediately after the hearing.

Accordingly, he ordered Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell to "bring with
them" all letters, cards and gifts exchanged between them, all credit card
or store receipts for any gifts, all photographs and videotapes depicting
the 2 together, and all e-mails or text messages from the two pertaining
to allegations about the romantic relationship.

"We're getting an opportunity for the first time, which is all we've asked
for, and that is to argue that we should be entitled to take these
depositions before the execution date," Mr. Wiercioch said.

The judge could deny the request to take depositions, or the depositions
might not reveal anything helpful to Mr. Hood.

Even if the request to take depositions is granted and information about
the alleged affair is revealed, Judge Brewer has no authority to order a
stay for Mr. Hood's execution.

Depositions taken in civil court could be used to get a stay in a criminal
court proceeding.

'Improper lawsuit'

Defense attorneys are not the only ones who have been frustrated by the
case. Wednesday is Mr. Hood's 6th scheduled execution date, according to
the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His case has been grinding
through the criminal justice system for 18 years.

Earlier Thursday, before the attorney general's letter was released,
Collin County Assistant District Attorney John Rolater said "this is an
improper lawsuit" that belongs in criminal court, not civil court.

"They can have a hearing, but this is not where the case belongs," he
said. "They're just forum shopping and manipulating the system."

He later declined to comment on the attorney general's letter.

Neither Judge Holland nor Mr. O'Connell returned calls for comment.

Rumors about the alleged affair have circulated for years but never gained
any traction in criminal court.

Shortly before Mr. Hood's scheduled execution in June, a former assistant
district attorney said in an affidavit that the relationship was "common
knowledge" around the courthouse.

Defense attorneys tried to use the affidavit to halt the execution so the
allegations could be explored, but the courts refused, saying the
affidavit contained nothing new because it provided no direct knowledge of
the alleged relationship.

Mr. Hood's execution eventually was halted by prison officials who said
they ran out of time to conduct the execution before the death warrant
expired at midnight.

Defense attorneys then turned to civil courts to get direct information
but were once again rebuffed. Many of the judges involved in the case in
recent months have recused themselves because they know the two parties

On Wednesday, Judge Robert Dry recused himself, citing a previous business
relationship with Judge Holland's ex-husband. Before his recusal, however,
he had set a hearing for two days after the scheduled execution.

The same day, 22 former judges and prosecutors, including Judge William
Sessions, former director of the FBI, wrote Gov. Rick Perry asking him to
stop the execution.


Texas inmate Gregory Wright to receive stay of execution in 1997 DeSoto

Convicted murderer Gregory Edward Wright and his wife Connie Wright, who
he married while on death row, have reason to celebrate today. Supporters
who champion his cause on a website,, might also
want to break out the champaign.

Mr. Wright was scheduled to die Tuesday. The formerly homeless
crack-smoker was convicted in 1997 of robbing and fatally stabbing a
religious do-gooder who took him into her home and offered him food and a
place to sleep.

But his execution is to be postponed, according to an agreement that his
attorney, Bruce Anton, said was reached this morning in state district

"We've agreed to a stay of execution for additional DNA testing," Mr.
Anton said. "The judge is going to modify the execution date and reset it
for a later time."

Mr. Anton said DNA tests have called into question some of the evidence
that linked his client to the murder during trial. He also said his
client's co-defendant, John Wade Adams, another former homeless man, has
come forward from death row to claim sole responsibility for the killing.

Mr. Wright "was in the home at the time of the murder," Mr. Anton said.
But "he had nothing to do with the murder…"

"The state now is arguing that, well, if he was in the home he must have
had something to do with the murder," Mr. Anton said. "That's not anything
that they alleged at trial. That's something that they're saying now, I
suppose in an effort to salvage the conviction in some fashion."

Wright, then 32, was convicted of capital murder in the March 21, 1997,
death of John Wade Adams, a 52-year-old DeSoto widow who had taken him in.
Prosecutors said he stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and chest.

Afterward, according to trial testimony, he and Mr. Adams stole her
Chrysler New Yorker and traded her television, VCR, microwave, color
printer, weed trimmer, hand-carried radio and rifle for some crack.

(source for both: Dallas Morning News)


As Texas Execution Nears, Hearing Is Set on a Claim That Judge and
Prosecutor Had Affair

With less than a week to go before the scheduled execution of a man who
contends his murder trial was tainted by a love affair between the judge
and the prosecutor, a state judge on Thursday ordered a hearing into the
accusation and the Texas attorney general called for a review of the
fairness of the trial.

The judge's order and the attorney general's request are the latest twists
in a complicated legal drama that has prompted criticism from prosecutors,
judges and experts on legal ethics across the nation. They argue that if
the love affair occurred, the condemned man did not receive a fair trial.

On Wednesday, 22 prominent former judges and prosecutors among them the
former F.B.I. director William S. Sessions urged Gov. Rick Perry to put
off the execution to allow more time for a hearing to determine if the
claim of an affair is true.

"It is an irrevocable wrong to send a man to his death without ever
hearing this critical evidence," the group said in a letter to Governor
Perry, a Republican.

Late on Thursday, the attorney general, Greg Abbott, said he agreed. In a
letter to local prosecutors, Mr. Abbott said the state would ask the
district court to "thoroughly review the defendant's claims before the
execution proceeds" in order to "protect the integrity of the Texas legal

"The impartiality of a defendant's trial and conviction must be beyond
reproach, Mr. Abbott said. "Thus, before the state carries out the
ultimate, irreversible punishment, the appropriate trial court should
thoroughly review this matter."

The convicted murderer, Charles D. Hood, 39, is scheduled to be executed
on Wednesday for the murder and robbery in 1989 of a couple he lived with
in Plano, just north of Dallas.

Fingerprints linked Mr. Hood to the murders, and he was arrested the next
day in Indiana driving a car belonging to the murdered man, Ronald
Williamson, who had been Mr. Hood's supervisor at a strip club where they
both worked. Mr. Williamson's girlfriend, Tracie Lynn Wallace, a former
dancer at the club, was also killed.

Having exhausted all other appeals, Mr. Hood's lawyers have tried to prove
in recent months that Mr. Hood's trial in 1990 was tainted because the
judge, Verla Sue Holland, and the Collin County district attorney at the
time, Thomas S. O'Connell Jr., were having an affair.

Neither Judge Holland, who is retired, nor Mr. O'Connell, who is in
private practice, returned calls seeking comment.

Lawyers for Mr. Hood contend that the affair, first reported in 2005 in
the online magazine Salon, was long rumored in Collin County's legal
circles, but no one with evidence about it had been willing to testify
under oath.

"It's a wall of silence we have been trying to break down," said Greg
Wiercioch, one of Mr. Hood's lawyers.

In June, Mr. Hood's lawyers got a sworn affidavit from a former assistant
district attorney, Matthew Goeller, who said the romantic relationship
"was common knowledge in the district attorney's office, and the Collin
County bar, in general," at the time of the trial. Mr. Goeller said the
affair was going on when he came to the office in 1987 and continued
through 1993.

With this testimony in hand, Mr. Hood's lawyers asked the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals, the states highest court, to stay the execution, but it
rejected the motion, saying that the argument should have been raised
sooner and that it relied on hearsay.

Mr. Hood's lawyers then filed a motion in the county's civil court that
sought to compel Mr. OConnell and Judge Holland to testify about their

That motion landed in the courtroom of Judge Robert T. Dry, who last week
set a hearing date for 2 days after the scheduled execution, remarking,
"In reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr.

Judge Dry also acknowledged that he knew Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell
well. "It is likely that every local judge knows them," he wrote.

On Wednesday, Judge Dry suddenly recused himself, saying he had also been
close friends and business partners with Judge Holland's former husband,
Earl Holland, who is now dead.

The case was then transferred to Judge Greg Brewer, who quickly ordered a
hearing to be held on Monday to decide whether to require Mr. OConnell and
Judge Holland to testify.

(source: New York Times)


Hearing rescheduled to precede convict's death

Charles Dean Hood scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for 1989 murder

Hearing on his case, set for two days after his execution, has been moved
to Monday

Hearing will discuss charges that D.A., judge at Hood's trial were
romantically linked

Texas attorney general says Hood's guilt not in question; reprieve already

A judge on Thursday moved a hearing date for a condemned inmate so that
it's no longer scheduled for after his execution. The change gives Charles
Dean Hood's lawyers a chance to argue while he's still alive that his
conviction was unfair because the judge was allegedly having an affair
with a prosecutor.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been asked to issue a reprieve for convicted
murderer Charles Dean Hood.

State District Judge Greg Brewer moved the hearing date for Hood to
Monday, two days before Hood is set to die for the 1989 slaying of a
couple in Plano, near Dallas.

The decision reverses a that of another judge, Robert Dry, who had set a
similar hearing for September 12, two days after Hood's execution date.

The hearing will address arguments that Hood's murder trial was unfair
because of an alleged romantic relationship between the judge presiding
over the trial, Verla Sue Holland, and former Collin County District
Attorney Tom O'Connell.

Brewer ordered Holland, now retired, and O'Connell, now in private
practice, to be ready to be interviewed by lawyers Monday — if Brewer
agrees at Monday's hearing that the pair should be deposed. Neither has
commented on the allegations that they were romantically involved.

Later Thursday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said his office,
although it does not have jurisdiction in the matter at the local court
level, would be filing a friend of the court brief with Brewer seeking a
review of the allegations of a romantic link between Holland and

"Because of the unique nature of the issues in this matter — and to
protect the integrity of the Texas legal system — we will ask the court
to thoroughly review this matter," Abbott said.

He said the facts of the case were not in question, that Hood's appeals
never claimed he was innocent and "there appears to be little doubt that
Hood deserves the sentence he was given."

Greg Wiercioch, one of Hood's lawyers, called the attorney general's
actions "highly, highly unusual," but said there was no guarantee they
would result in the execution being delayed.

"We may still need help from the governor," he said.

Wiercioch has asked Gov. Rick Perry to issue a 30-day reprieve, which the
governor is empowered to do once.

Judge Dry wrote to the defense last month that he was treating the request
as part of a civil case that could be pursued after Hood was dead. "In
reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr. Hood," he

But the defense said the hearing should be held before Hood's 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."

On Wednesday, Dry took himself off the case, citing a "previous business
relationship" with Holland's ex-husband as the reason.

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

The former topless-club bouncer was convicted of killing Tracie Lynn
Wallace, 26, an ex-dancer at the club, and her boyfriend, Ronald
Williamson, 46, at Williamson's home.

Hood was driving Williamson's Cadillac at the time of his arrest, and
fingerprint evidence tied him to the murder scene. But he said he was
living at Williamson's home and had permission to drive the car.

(source: Associated Press)