Thursday, October 16, 2008

Attorney general defends actions in investigation of affair between judge, DA

It is interesting and strange, in my opinion, that the Texas Attorney General gives the perception that he cares about the Charles Hood case and the picture of total unfairness that it gives to justice in Texas. And never mind the fact that it is totally illegal for a judge and a DA to be having an affair while working on the same case.
If Abbott was really on the justice ball, he would file some kind of charges on both Judge Holland and former DA O'Connell for violating the constitution of the state of Texas. And then he would make sure that Charles Hood had a new trial with an impartial DA and judge who were not romantically involved with each other.
Just another example of how this system if BROKEN. Let's shut it down!!
(mark your calender--only 9 days until the 9th Annual Texas March to Stop Executions)

Attorney general defends actions in investigation of affair between judge, DA

11:07 AM CDT on Friday, September 26, 2008
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News
The state's top lawyer said Thursday that he had expected Texas courts to "step up and do the right thing" by investigating an affair between the judge and prosecutor in the trial of condemned killer Charles Dean Hood.
Only when they didn't, did his office publicly intervene in a case that he says "has called into question the integrity" of the Texas justice system.
Attorney General Greg Abbott's unusual public comments came as he responded to criticism in the formal court petition filed Thursday by Mr. Hood's attorneys seeking a new trial because retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell admitted having a relationship that the defense says tainted Mr. Hood's right to a fair trial.
The case has drawn attention from legal ethicists and death penalty opponents who say it has given the Texas criminal justice system a black eye.
Mr. Abbott said that though his office filed a "friend of the court" brief urging investigation into the allegations a few days before Mr. Hood's latest scheduled execution date in September, his office had been working behind the scenes since the allegations were first raised in court months earlier.
Delayed execution

Mr. Abbott pointed out that his office also was closely involved in the decision not to execute Mr. Hood on an earlier date, in June. On that occasion, Mr. Hood was twice taken to the death house as attorneys and judges wrangled long into the night. Mr. Hood's execution did not go forward despite being cleared by the courts.
"Our office was involved and advising on that process," Mr. Abbott said. He declined to clarify the role played because "it may arguably be protected by attorney-client privilege."
At the time, prison officials said they canceled the execution since they didn't have time to carry it out before the death warrant expired at midnight.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed the decision was made "after consulting with the attorney general's office."
“That’s just rhetoric," Mr. Abbott said. “It sounds like a lot of lawyer hot air.”
Mr. Abbott, who supports the death penalty, said he has not read the depositions in which the judge and prosecutor admitted having a long-standing intimate relationship.
He declined to comment on whether Mr. Hood deserves a new trial, but he said he felt strongly the allegations should be explored before the sentence is carried out.
"A real triggering event was when it was learned that a hearing was set to look into this matter days after the execution was set," he said. It was then that the former Texas Supreme Court judge took public action.
Apparently, some members of Mr. Abbott's own staff were unaware of his efforts in the Hood case. After the attorney general's office filed the "friend of the court" brief urging investigation into Mr. Hood's claims, an assistant attorney general who had been representing Judge Holland filed a complaint against him with the State Bar of Texas.
"That's what happens when people shoot first and ask questions later," Mr. Abbott said.
"The person filing the complaint had no information about what me or the office had done months before representation of the judge was undertaken. We, including me personally, had already taken action in this case months before Judge Holland contacted our office for representation."
He said that when he learned the assistant attorney general had undertaken representation of Judge Holland, his office immediately told Judge Holland she needed to hire her own attorney.
The relationship

Mr. Hood was convicted in 1990 for killing Tracie Lynn Wallace and Ronald Williamson in Plano. He claims he deserves a new trial because "Judge Holland created an appearance of impropriety and an impression of possible bias."
The petition filed Thursday seeking a new trial shed more light on the relationship between Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell. According to the petition, Judge Holland told attorneys it began in 1982 and ended in 1987; Mr. O'Connell recollected it started in 1984 or 1985 and did not end until 1991 or 1992.
The two apparently remained good friends even as the romance waned. As late as 1991, they traveled to Santa Fe together, and Mr. O'Connell attended Judge Holland's family reunion that same year.
The depositions reportedly said both parties professed their love for each other during the relationship. Mr. O'Connell said Judge Holland talked about getting married, but Judge Holland denied that.
Both parties said they kept the relationship secret. "Their sexual encounters took place at each other's homes when their spouses were away," according to the petition.
According to the petition, Judge Holland said during her deposition it was "absolutely not" improper for her to preside over the Hood case. Her attorney has said the romance was not going on at the time of Mr. Hood's arrest and trial.
Neither he nor Mr. O'Connell's attorney could be reached for comment.
Mr. Hood's lawyers also declined to elaborate on the petition, which in addition to taking Mr. Abbott to task, called the conduct of "the current District Attorney and his minions ... troubling."
John Rolater, the assistant district attorney for Collin County who fought to avoid the deposition of Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell, declined to comment on the petition, citing pending litigation.

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