The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals failed to uphold the integrity of the justice system yesterday by refusing to stay the execution of murderer Charles Dean Hood.
There is no hint that Mr. Hood is innocent of the grisly double slaying in Plano that he was convicted of 18 years ago. Rather, the issue is whether anyone should be tried in a Texas court that resembles a stacked deck.
Questions have been raised about the impartiality of the trial judge, Sue Holland, because of a hush-hush romantic involvement she purportedly was having with the district attorney at the time, Tom O'Connell. Mr. O'Connell was active in the trial, questioning witnesses and delivering part of the closing arguments.
If he did so in front of his secret lover, it would not only offend the sense of fair play, it would appear to offend the Texas Constitution. Article 5, Section 11 offers protections against court proceedings in which a lawyer has things wired with the judge. It says:
No judge shall sit in any case wherein the judge may be interested, or where either of the parties may be connected with the judge, either by affinity or consanguinity.
In petitioning the appeals court last week, Mr. Hood's attorneys offered only innuendo about, not proof of, a secret affair. Nor did they provide proof that a close relationship affected the judge's decision-making.
But considering the gravity of the charges, the appeals court was duty-bound to stay Mr. Hood's execution today in Huntsville and to sort out the facts.
The case involves the ghastly slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace. They must not be forgotten, and their loved ones deserve swift resolution of the killer's fate. The execution date has been postponed before. To some, another delay might have seemed like a cruel joke.
But public confidence in the justice system is essential. The appeals court needed to send a signal that Texas courts demand the highest standards when people's lives are at stake. It's beyond disappointing that wasn't the case.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Headline: Stay the execution of Charles Dean Hood
Thats title of today's Dallas Morning News editorial about Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' ruling against a stay of execution for Charles Dean Hood.