All three judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who are up for re-election in 2010 voted with the majority not to give a new trial to Charles Dean Hood, whose judge and prosecutor were having an affair during his 1990 trial. The vote on the CCA was 6-3. The three judges who did vote to send the case back to a lower court to explore the merits of his claim were Judges Cathy Cochran, Charles Holcomb and Tom Price.
The three judges up for re-election in 2010 are Michael Keasler, Cheryl Johnson and Lawrence Meyers. They all were among the six on the all-Republican court, including disgraced Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, who said Charles Dean Hood is not entitled to a new trial despite the fact that his judge and prosecutor were having an affair during his 1990 trial. So far, no Democrat has announced plans to run for the CCA in 2010. Where are the Democrats?
In a 6-3 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to consider Hood’s appeal, saying details of the affair were not properly raised by his lawyers.
State law gives death row inmates one appeal, known as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Subsequent filings, such as the petition Hood’s lawyers filed last year, cannot be considered unless they contain facts that were not available to lawyers exercising “reasonable diligence” in the first appeal.
Hood’s lawyers failed to meet that standard, the court’s unsigned opinion stated without elaboration.
Wednesday’s ruling contradicted findings by state District Judge Greg Brewer of Collin County, where Hood was prosecuted. Brewer, assigned by the Court of Criminal Appeals to review the latest appeal, determined that Hood’s lawyers demonstrated “extraordinary” diligence in confirming rumors that then-District Judge Verla Sue Holland and Thomas O’Connell Jr., the former district attorney of Collin County, had been having a sexual relationship before and during Hood’s trial.
The judge and prosecutor strove to keep the affair secret, Brewer said, revealing the relationship only when forced to testify under oath in 2008.
But prosecutors argued that rumors of the affair were known to Hood’s lawyers during his first round of appeals.
“Our argument is that they had this information and should have raised it in the earlier writ,” prosecutor John Rolater, the chief of Collin County’s appellate division, told The Associated Press.
Hood’s appeals lawyer criticized the ruling.
“No one would want to be prosecuted for a parking violation, let alone for capital murder, by a district attorney who is sleeping with the judge,” said Greg Wiercioch with Texas Defender Service. “Mr. Hood is entitled to a new trial before an impartial judge and a fair prosecutor.”
Judges Cathy Cochran, Charles Holcomb and Tom Price dissented, saying they would have sent Hood’s appeal to a lower court to explore the merits of his claim.
Holland is no longer a judge. She served on the Court of Criminal Appeals from to 1997 to 2001. Eight of the court’s nine current judges served with her.
Hood was convicted of killing Ronald Williamson and Tracie Wallace in their Plano home. Hood’s bloody fingerprint was found in the house.
Hood still has an appeal pending before the court on a different issue.