Here's the text of the Texas Defender Service news release:
TEXAS COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OKS SECRET SEXUAL AFFAIR BETWEEN JUDGE ANDPROSECUTOR IN DEATH CASE
Court Ignores Sworn Undisputed Evidence of Hidden Relationship
Today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 decision,ignored evidence of a long-term, clandestine sexual relationship between the trial judge and head prosecutor in a capital case and dismissed the appeal of Charles Dean Hood.
In 1990, Mr. Hood was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for killing Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace in the same criminal transaction. His trial took place before the Honorable Verla Sue Holland of the 296th Judicial District Court of Collin County, Texas. Thomas S. O’Connell, Jr., the elected District Attorney of Collin County, actively participated in the prosecution of Mr. Hood. Though they failed to disclose it to the defense lawyers or Mr. Hood, Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell had been engaged in a long-term secret, sexual affair.
“Today’s decision rewards the judge and prosecutor for maintaining a wall of silence about their affair for nearly two decades. Not until they were forced to testify under oath last year did the truth finally emerge. This decision by a Court where eight of the nine judges once shared the bench with Judge Holland will only add to the perception that justice is skewed in Texas -- that obvious and outrageous violations of the Constitution are acceptable in death penalty cases,” said Andrea Keilen, Executive Director of Texas Defender Service which represents Charles Dean Hood.
“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. Yet the Court of Criminal Appeals is unmoved. We are outraged by this breakdown in the integrity of the justice system. We will continue to vigorously litigate this claim of judicial bias. Mr. Hood is entitled to a new trial before an impartial judge and a fair prosecutor. ,” said Greg Wiercioch, Senior Staff Attorney with Texas Defender Service.
Neither Judge Holland nor Mr. O’Connell disclosed to Mr. Hood that they had been involved in an intimate sexual relationship in the years leading up to the capital murder trial. In fact, they hid or lied about the existence of the affair until being put under oath during depositions in this case in September 2008. Judge Holland never disclosed her romantic relationship with Mr. O’Connell to a single litigant or lawyer who appeared before her, and she never recused herself from a single case because of the affair.
The existence of such a relationship between a trial judge and prosecutor is a clear cut constitutional violation that has drawn significant ethical criticism. Thirty former federal and state judges and prosecutors delivered a letter to Governor Perry urging him to intervene and ensure that the court to conduct a meaningful review of the allegations of a secret romantic relationship between Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell. The nearly 500-member Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers and three dozen of the nation’s leading legal ethicists have stated that the relationship between Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell constitutes a violation of Hood’s constitutional rights and called for an investigation and expedited discovery.
The review of this issue began on June 3, 2008, when Matthew Goeller, who was an assistant district attorney in the Collin County District Attorney’sOffice from 1987 to 1996, filed an affidavit testifying that “[i]t was common knowledge” that Holland and O’Connell “had a romantic relationship” for several years, including the time of Hood’s trial and death sentence. Goeller’s affidavit marked the first time that a former employee of the DA’s office was willing to speak on the record and under oath about the relationship.
Hood was scheduled to be executed on June 17, 2008, but the executioners called it off because they did not have enough time to administer lethal injection before the midnight death warrant expired. Shortly after, the trial judge conducted depositions and held a hearing, which lead to the admission of the affair. Eight of the nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals served with Judge Holland on the Court of Appeals and did not recuse themselves from considering this case.
Earlier coverage begins here, with news of the CCA ruling.