The New York Times reports on an interesting legal battle going on in Texas. A convicted murderer, Charles D. Hood, 39, is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for the murder and robbery in 1989 of a couple he lived with in Plano, just north of Dallas. So far nothing out of the ordinary; sounds like business as usual for Texas.
The problem is that long-standing rumors have been circulating that the judge, Verla Sue Holland, and the Collin County district attorney at the time, Thomas S. O’Connell Jr., were having an affair during the 1990 trial. Blocked by a solid wall of silence, Greg Wiercioch, one of Mr. Hood’s lawyers finally got a break this year.
In June, Mr. Hood’s lawyers got a sworn affidavit from a former assistant district attorney, Matthew Goeller, who said the romantic relationship “was common knowledge in the district attorney’s office, and the Collin County bar, in general,” at the time of the trial. Mr. Goeller said the affair was going on when he came to the office in 1987 and continued through 1993.
Naturally motions were put forth earlier in the summer, but with time running out any obstacle could be disastrous.
That motion landed in the courtroom of Judge Robert T. Dry, who last week set a hearing date for two days after the scheduled execution, remarking, “In reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr. Hood.” Judge Dry also acknowledged that he knew Judge Holland and Mr. O’Connell well. “It is likely that every local judge knows them,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Judge Dry suddenly recused himself, saying he had also been close friends and business partners with Judge Holland’s former husband, Earl Holland, who is now dead.
The upshot is this:
On Wednesday, 22 prominent former judges and prosecutors — among them the former F.B.I. director William S. Sessions — urged Gov. Rick Perry to put off the execution to allow more time for a hearing to determine if the claim of an affair is true.
It makes me wonder why is it so difficult to play by the rules? If we tell people don't go around killing each other, then turn around and kill them with lethal injection, I say something's wrong. If we demand that the citizens adhere to certain norms, but the judges and prosecutors do whatever they want, I say something's wrong. And what is this wall of silence? Isn't that kind of covering up illegal? We're talking not only about people's lives, but about the reputation of the great state of Texas. Judge Dry recusing himself at the eleventh hour, the presiding judge and prosecutor carrying on during the trial, these are shabby behaviors which we cannot afford. I understand capital punishment is legal, but it has to be administered in as clean and upright a manner as possible. Otherwise we take an already barbaric practice and turn it into a true travesty of justice.
What's your opinion?