Convicted double murderer Charles Dean Hood won a stay of execution on Tuesday, only hours after the judge who had presided at his 1990 trial acknowledged she’d been involved in a long-term intimate relationship with the district attorney who prosecuted Hood’s case. The ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals means that Hood is off the hook, at least for now. But the same can’t be said for the Texas justice system, which has seen some of its most egregious excesses exposed in the battle over whether Hood should live or die.
Travesty in Texas (September 8, 2008)
"The case of convicted double murderer Charles Dean Hood raises deeply disturbing questions about the state's administration of justice." By Alan Berlow
In issuing the stay, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court, ducked the issue of the alleged affair entirely, but instead agreed to reexamine whether the instructions Hood’s jurors were given prior to sentencing him to death were constitutional. The CCA has previously ruled that there was no problem with those instructions. The decision means that Hood could get a new sentencing hearing—which could result in a sentence other than death—but not a new trial.
Lawyers for Hood, who was scheduled to be executed on September 10, have been arguing since June that their client’s 1990 trial was thoroughly compromised by the relationship of Judge Verla Sue Holland and District Attorney Thomas O’Connell, and that the death sentence was therefore invalid and that Hood should be retried. But the courts and the district attorney for Collin County, just north of Dallas, had all dismissed the allegations as nothing more than “rumor.” While the DA pressed to have Hood executed, the state’s criminal courts ruled that it was too late in the game for Hood to raise the claim about an intimate relationship.