Feb 22, 2010

In Texas, Justice is for Lovers

Someone close to you is charged with capital murder.  Would you be upset to know that the trial judge and prosecutor had recently carried on an extra-marital affair?

This happened in Charles Dean Hood in 1989.  Hood was apparently just that-- he was convicted in Texas of a double murder in 1990.  What Hood didn't know was that trial judge Verla Sue Holland and prosecutor Thjomas S.O'Connell Jr had recently ended an extra-marital affair.  

Texas's highest court has upheld the conviction, ruling that Hood took too long to complain about the possible conflict of interest. That's a surprising ruling since the judge and prosecutor didn't admit to the affair until 2008, 18 years after Hood's conviction.  The court took refuge in the procedural point to avoid confronting the real issue, which is whether the judge and the prosecutor had an ethical obligation to disclose their affair to the defense. 

The answer to this question is easy: YES!  Hood's attorneys should not have had to ask for this information, Holland and O'Connell should have revealed it and given the defense a chance to object. If the judge and prosecutor were concerned about protecting their privacy, one or both of them could have stepped aside and let others handle the case.  Hood has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and hopefully the Court will reverse the conviction and eliminate this blight on the US system of justice.  As for Holland and O"Connell, at the very least these worthies should repay the Texas taxpayers for the cost of a trial that was a sham all along.