Texas Court Supports Review of Murder Case Due to Sexual Relationship Between Trial Judge and Prosecutor

The ABA Journal has obtained the findings of Judge Greg Brewer, who is recommending that the case of Charles Dean Hood be reviewed in light of an intimate relationship between former Collin County District Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Thomas S. O’Connell Jr. Notably, O’Connell previously denied such a relationship.

Hood was on death row and his lawyers tried unsuccessfully to confirm the rumored relationship. He was saved at the last minute by a reprieve from death. Among the findings of fact are:

Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell took deliberate measures to ensure that their affair would remain secret. There were no public displays of affection. Holland deposition at 52; O’Connell deposition at 43. Their sexual encounters took place at each other’s homes when their spouses were away.
Id. at 16-17; Holland deposition at 52. Mr. O’Connell could not recall telling anyone, except possibly his sisters, about his romantic relationship with Judge Holland. O’Connell deposition at 18. Judge Holland told no one. Holland deposition at 31, 33.

Brewer found a pattern of deception:

“Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell wrongfully withheld relevant information from defense counsel prior to and during the trial, the direct appeal, the state habeas proceedings, the federal habeas proceedings, and the successive state habeas proceedings. Indeed, Mr. O’Connell misled habeas counsel during the successive state habeas proceedings and Judge Holland resisted counsel’s investigative efforts.”

Brewer finds that Holland and O’Connell had a “duty to disclose the fundamental conflict caused by their relationship.” He holds that “in the face of rumors of an affair, Hood was entitled to presume that Judge Holland’s and Mr. O’Connell’s behavior—refusing to recuse themselves from cases Mr. O’Connell personally prosecuted in Judge Holland’s courtroom—indicated that the rumors were false.”

For the findings of fact, click here.

For the full story, click here

4 thoughts on “Texas Court Supports Review of Murder Case Due to Sexual Relationship Between Trial Judge and Prosecutor”

  1. Not The End Of The Affair
    CourtWatch: Capital Case In Texas Marred By Romantic Relationship Between Judge And Prosecutor

    Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/05/03/opinion/courtwatch/main4988234.shtml

    The last time we checked in on law and justice in Collin County, Texas, Matthew Goeller had almost single-handedly stopped an execution less than two hours before it was scheduled to begin. The former assistant district attorney had sworn under oath in an affidavit that the trial judge in Charles Dean Hood’s capital murder case in 1990 had been having an illicit affair with the prosecutor in the case.

    Goeller’s belated act of courage – he had known about the affair for decades before he went public with the information – has begun to force the state of Texas, grudgingly it seems, to do the right thing. Hood’s scheduled execution was postponed. An appellate court authorized an honest review of the unthinking conduct of former judge Verla Sue Holland and former prosecutor Thomas S. O’Connell, Jr. On Friday, a judge formally confirmed Goeller’s story.

    This is going to get better and better.

  2. Just wait until you see who signed a search warrant for a search of the defendants attorneys office. You just wait and see. It has been fun, hearing the inside scoop.

    In plain language. Someone authorized a search of a law office, apparently searching for incriminating evidence on someone. You just wait and see.

  3. Beyond tainting the cases they had in common and thus being eligible for impeachment and disbarment, am I wrong in thinking that this is also a criminal issue, since even if money did not change hands, situationally this is akin to bribery?

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