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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Execution halted amid rumors of affair between judge, D.A.

McKINNEY, Texas (AP) -- A death row inmate whose lawyers argued a secret romantic relationship between the judge and prosecutor tainted his trial has won a reprieve -- but not because of the alleged affair.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals postponed Charles Dean Hood's execution, scheduled for Wednesday, because it wanted to reconsider whether the jury instructions were flawed.

At the same time, the court dismissed claims Hood's attorneys filed that he was denied a fair trial because of what would be a legally unethical relationship between retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell.

The reprieve came around the time Hood's lawyers sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter saying that Holland and O'Connell "admitted under oath that they had an intimate sexual relationship for many years."

"The intimate sexual relationship between the judge and the district attorney began several years prior to the trial of Mr. Hood," lawyer Greg Wiercioch said in his letter to the governor re-emphasizing his earlier petition for a 30-day reprieve.

"While Mr. O'Connell and Judge Holland have different recollections as to when the affair ceased containing an intimate sexual component, there is no doubt that the relationship was sexual in the years immediately leading up to the time that Judge Holland had jurisdiction over the case." [Mark Godsey]

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