On Sept 10, 2008, the state of Texas is scheduled to execute Charles Dean Hood despite the fact that his trial judge and the DA who prosecuted him were having an affair at the time of Hood’s trial.

Click here to urge Governor Perry to stop the execution of Charles Hood

Hood’s lawyers say:

Today, a letter from 22 former federal and state judges and prosecutors (pdf) from Texas and across the country was delivered to Governor Perry urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve to Charles Dean Hood who is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. The former judges and prosecutors are asking the governor to grant a reprieve to allow the Texas courts to conduct a meaningful review of the allegations of a secret romantic relationship between Judge Verla Sue Holland, who presided over Mr. Hood’s 1990 capital murder trial, and former Collin County District Attorney Thomas O’Connell, who prosecuted the case.

The letter states: “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.”

Signatories to the letter include: John J. Gibbons, former Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; W.J. Michael Cody, former Attorney General of Tennessee; J. Joseph Curran, former Attorney General of Maryland; William S. Sessions, former Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and former Director of the FBI; Kenneth J. Mighell, former United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas; Jay Burnett, former Criminal District Court Judge, Texas; and Sam D. Millsap, former District Attorney, Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas.

The former judges and prosecutors say that “Mr. Hood’s claim appears on its face to have substantial credibility.” In June, a former assistant district attorney who worked in the office with Mr. O’Connell filed an affidavit stating that “[i]t was common knowledge in the District Attorney’s Office, and the Collin County Bar, in general, that the District Attorney…and Judge Verla Sue Holland had a romantic relationship.” Mr. Hood’s trial attorney and a private investigator have also signed affidavits corroborating this claim.

To-date, the Texas courts have refused to consider the charges on their merits or allow an investigation before the scheduled execution. Judge Robert Dry of the 199th Judicial District Court has scheduled a hearing on Mr. Hood’s request to take investigatory depositions of Judge Holland and former District Attorney Tom O’Connell on September 12, 2008 – two days after the scheduled execution.

“It is an irrevocable wrong to send a man to his death without ever hearing this critical evidence,” the letter from the former judges and prosecutors states.

Earlier this summer, the nearly 500-member Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and three dozen of the nation’s leading legal ethicists also called Mr. Hood’s conviction into question (pdf). They say the affair constitutes a violation of Mr. Hood’s constitutional rights and must be investigated.

Read more about the relationship in Alan Berlow’s Salon.com article.

On Sunday, Aug 21, 2008, Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey wrote,

On June 3, Hood’s lawyers obtained a sworn statement from a lawyer who had worked in the Collin County district attorney’s office at the time of the trial in 1990. The former assistant DA, Matthew Goeller, said it was “common knowledge in the district attorney’s office” that DA Tom O’Connell and Judge Verla Sue Holland were involved in a long-running affair.

The courts have clearly held that the constitutional right to due process includes a trial in which the judge is not, figuratively or literally, in bed with the prosecutor.

The ABA Code of Judicial Conduct provides that “A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Where there is doubt, a judge is obliged to disclose information that lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification.

The judge in Hood’s case did not disclose the affair with the prosecuting attorney.

Charles Hood deserves a new trial in which the judge is not having an affair with the prosecuting attorney.

Please compose a message in your own words. Form letters are not effective.You can also express your sympathy for the familes and loved ones of Tracie Wallace and Ronald Williamson.

You can also leave Governor Perry a phone message at: 512-463-2000, fax him at 512-463-1849 (his fax line is often busy, so just keep trying) or write him at:

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

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