Clear the air in death case
Charges of corrupted justice in the Collin County murder trial of Charles
Dean Hood will get an overdue airing in court Monday.
The inquiry should be complete and conclusive on whether the trial judge
and the district attorney who prosecuted the case were having a secret
affair when Mr. Hood was convicted of capital murder in 1990. It should
involve the opportunity for former state District Judge Verla Sue Holland
and former DA Tom O'Connell to address sworn, but unproven, allegations of
unethical and unconstitutional behavior.
It goes without saying that the inquiry should move with urgency, since
the defendant's execution is set for Wednesday.
For weeks, the radioactive murder case careened from courtroom to
courtroom, and the ideal of sure and swift justice seemed like a pathetic
afterthought. In a chaotic spectacle on June 17, Mr. Hood came within 90
minutes of execution, only to have the warrant withdrawn and reinstated
hours later. Prison staff could not squeeze in the execution routine
before the midnight deadline, which is the only reason that attorneys can
still dissect what was going on in the county courthouse 18 years ago.
Various courts appeared to deflect the core question of judicial
corruption until Thursday, when state District Judge Greg Brewer ordered a
hearing on the matter. That shows spine.
In any salacious talk of secret trysts, it mustn't be lost that the case
stems from the heartless murders of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn
Wallace of Plano. A jury found that Mr. Hood was the killer, but the
conviction can't involve lingering doubts of a rigged case no matter how
clear the evidence of guilt.
Attorney General Greg Abbott said as much in an extraordinary statement
last week urging thorough review. Even the most ardent law-and-order Texan
must agree with Mr. Abbott that "if the execution proceeds as scheduled,
before questions about the fairness of his trial are legally resolved,
neither the victims nor justice will be served."
Indeed, if Judge Brewer's fact-finding needed more time, with the
execution date looming, Gov. Rick Perry should heed the wisdom expressed
in a letter by more than 2 dozen federal and state judges and prosecutors
who urged him to issue a one-time, 30-day reprieve.
(source: Editorial, Dallas Morning News)
TEXAS DEATH PENALTY: Procedure is crucial
An element of due process missing from the case of death row inmate
Charles Dean Hood might at last be addressed this week.
After a baffling series of miscues, a Collin County judge is scheduled to
decide Monday whether Hoods attorneys can question Verla Sue Holland and
Tom O'Connell under oath about claims that the two were having an affair
while he was the district attorney and she was the presiding judge in
Hoods 1990 capital murder trial.
For the 2nd time this year, there will be last-minute scrambling over
whether it's fair for the state to execute Hood, whos scheduled to die
What a shame all around that the Texas criminal justice system has
embarrassed itself again.
A Collin County jury 18 years ago convicted Hood of fatally shooting
Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, and Ronald Williamson, 46, to death at his Plano
home in 1989.
There's evidence that questions about an improper relationship between
Holland and OConnell surfaced repeatedly from the time of the trial. An
investigator wrote that Hood's lawyers didn't pursue the matter to avoid
angering the judge (who later served on the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals), and local lawyers wouldn't talk on the record for similar
reasons. A Salon.com writer raised the allegation in 2005. But not until
this year did Hood's appeals attorneys file an affidavit with a former
prosecutor, by name, calling an affair "common knowledge."
By that time, Hood had a June 17 execution date.
When appeals weren't resolved until late on the execution night, the
Department of Criminal Justice didnt go through with the procedure.
State District Judge John Nelms in Collin County then set the execution
for Wednesday. But Hood's attorneys continued to argue that he wasn't
given a fair trial and that they should be able to question Holland and
O'Connell, who haven't addressed the issue publicly. So state District
Judge Robert Dry set a hearing for 2 days after the execution. On Sept.
3, Dry stepped off the case, saying he had a prior business relationship
with Holland's ex-husband. State District Judge Greg Brewer moved the
hearing to Monday.
This discombobulation isn't just unfair when a man's life is at stake.
It's unfair to the victims relatives who are looking for finality. And
it's unfair to the public that funds the system and needs to have
confidence that it is just.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott put it best in a Thursday letter
notifying Collin County District Attorney John Roach that the state would
file a brief urging a full examination, even if it delays the execution.
"If the execution proceeds as scheduled, before questions about the
fairness of his trial are legally resolved, neither the victims nor
justice will be served," Abbott wrote.
(source: Editorial, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Review of alleged judge-DA affair opposed in capital case—-Ethics case
tied to execution that's set for this week
A suburban Dallas prosecutor said Friday he will oppose attempts to review
allegations of an unethical romantic relationship between a judge and a
district attorney who were handling the case of a killer scheduled to die
Lawyers for Charles Dean Hood, set to die Wednesday, want retired state
District Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District
Attorney Tom O'Connell to be deposed about claims they had a secret affair
during the trial.
A hearing in civil court was originally scheduled for two days after
Hood's execution date. State District Judge Greg Brewer moved the hearing
John Rolater, with the Collin County District Attorney's Office, said
Friday the effort by Hood's lawyers was an improper attempt to appeal the
"Our position is that this is an illegal lawsuit," Rolater said. "All
they're doing is challenging the conviction."
(source: Associated Press)