DA's office says allegations of affair

September 5, 2008 1:16:13 PM PDT
A suburban Dallas prosecutor said Friday he will oppose attempts to review allegations of an unethical romantic relationship between a judge and a district attorney who were handling the case of a condemned killer scheduled to die next week. Lawyers for Charles Dean Hood, set to die Wednesday, want retired state District Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell to be deposed about claims they had a secret affair during Hood's trial.

A hearing in civil court on whether to depose the two was originally scheduled for two days after Hood's execution date. State District Judge Greg Brewer moved the hearing to Monday.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has notified the court he would file a friend-of-the-court brief favoring a review of the allegations "to ensure that justice is certain and beyond question ... as well as to preserve the integrity of Texas' criminal justice system."

Holland, a former judge on the state's highest criminal court, and O'Connell, now in private practice, have refused to address the allegations. The claim was first raised in an affidavit from a former assistant district attorney in O'Connell's office.

Abbott also indicated the review should be carried out even if it means postponing Hood's execution. Abbott's office represents the state when condemned inmates appeal cases in the federal courts.

John Rolater, chief of the appellate division for the district attorney's office in Collin County, said Friday the effort by Hood's lawyers was an improper attempt to appeal Hood's conviction.

"Our position is that this is an illegal lawsuit," Rolater said. "All they're doing is challenging the conviction."

He said the action was before the wrong judge in the wrong court, that a civil suit was being used to challenge a criminal case.

"You can't use a civil process in a criminal case," Rolater said. "They need to follow the laws." Hood, 39, was scheduled to die June 17 but his lethal injection, delayed by numerous last-day appeals, was halted because state prison officials said they didn't have enough time to follow proper procedures before the execution warrant expired at midnight.

Further complicating the case, the judge who originally set the hearing on the depositions for after Hood's execution date Wednesday, Robert Dry, took himself off the case this week, citing a "previous business relationship" with Holland's ex-husband.

Greg Wiercioch, one of Hood's lawyers, has asked Gov. Rick Perry to issue a 30-day reprieve, which the governor is empowered to do once.

Hood is a former bouncer at a topless club who was 20 when he was arrested in Indiana for the fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, an ex-dancer at the club, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at Williamson's home in Plano in 1989.

Hood has maintained his innocence. He was driving Williamson's $70,000 Cadillac at the time of his arrest. Fingerprint evidence tied him to the murder scene. Hood contended his prints were at Williamson's home because he was living there and that he had permission to drive the car.

Evidence also tied Hood, who had served two years in an Indiana prison for passing bad checks, to the rape of a 15-year-old girl.

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