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June 13, 2008

Capital punishment, a love story?!?

A remarkable love story is emerging just before a scheduled execution, as reported here in the Austin American-Statesman:

The capital murder conviction of Charles Dean Hood, who is set to be executed Tuesday, should be overturned because the judge at his 1990 trial was secretly dating the district attorney, an appeal filed Thursday alleged.

Judge Verla Sue Holland, now retired, could not have provided Hood with a fair and impartial trial while involved in a long-term intimate relationship with then-Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell, the appeal said.  O'Connell played an active role in prosecuting Hood for the double murder that put him on death row.

"The wall of silence that has long protected Judge Holland must now come down," the appeal said. "An intimate relationship ... not only implies a special willingness of the judge to accept the prosecutor's representations and arguments, but also suggests extensive personal contacts beyond the confines of the courtroom."  Neither Holland nor O'Connell were married at the time, but they worked to keep the relationship secret, the appeal said.

June 13, 2008 at 09:37 AM | Permalink

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Comments

What's a little death sentence among lovers?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2008 11:22:39 AM

This is a serious question, and I hope it is treated as such. The evidence of a relationship seems pretty thin, namely "common knowledge" of the office. Do death row inmates have the right, on this "evidence" (not sure it's admissible, given the lack of personal knowledge), to coerce the ex-judge and prosecutor into answering questions about their personal lives? I am not sure they do. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And it's not just this--what about jurors--can they be haled into court, years later to testify about their lives etc. etc. At some point, collateral issues need to be let go.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2008 4:50:30 PM

A last minute death sentence appeal alleging, on the basis of no personal knowledge, an affair that allegedly existed EIGHTEEN YEARS before.

My, my, my.

If this isn't gaming the system, there's no such thing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 13, 2008 7:39:35 PM

What does EIGHTEEN YEARS before matter other than that is when the trial was? Are you arguing if it was a current trial and affair there might be merit but because it was 18 years ago there can't be?

Posted by: George | Jun 13, 2008 10:05:38 PM

Bill:

I think you are right on the money. As an ex-death row public defender I have to tell you as a matter of practice I tried to wait to the very last second to file my very best claims so this way every possible procedural bar is there to prevent my client from getting relief. ::tic::

You really can't be serious right? A judge and the prosecutor are bumping butts and this guy shouldn't get a new trial or at least a hearing on the claim?

Just asking.

Posted by: karl | Jun 13, 2008 11:07:39 PM

karl:

"You really can't be serious right?"

Not nearly as serious as the killers in whose behalf you labored.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 13, 2008 11:54:06 PM

Again with the ad hominems. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Posted by: karl | Jun 14, 2008 8:50:10 AM

karl, of course, assumes that the allegations are true . . . .

the issue, of course, is what after 18 years, the courts are going to do, are they, on the basis of speculation, subject the ex-judge and and ex-prosecutor to coercive inquiries.

And karl, you and I know that you guys do wait until the last minute to file certain appeals. Sometimes it bites you in the ass--e.g., Richard, the last killer executed before the lawless Baze moratorium.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 14, 2008 9:12:20 AM

karl:

Are you saying that you did NOT labor in behalf of killers?

Why would you consider it an ad hominem to truthfully state what you did as a lawyer? Are you saying you're ashamed of it?

My, my, my.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 14, 2008 9:28:13 AM

Bill Otis: A man who gleefully labored on behalf of a government that has thrown the largest percentage of a population in prison. Who fancies himself as caring about victims but who never stepped into the poor, black communities on whose behalf he deludes himself into thinking he has helped. A man who threw money at the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth to demean the service of a war veteran. A man who wrote that Scooter Libby should get a commutation even though the guideline called for prison time; and yet, he advocates for the supremacy of the guidelines in all other contexts.

"According to William Otis, who among other things has been involved in crafting the federal sentencing guidelines that have condemned so many nonviolent drug offenders to serve barbarically long sentences, sending Libby to prison at all 'would be an injustice to a person who, though guilty in this instance, is not what most people would, or should, think of as a criminal.'"

Published on Tuesday, June 12, 2007 by The Rocky Mountain News (Colorado)

Exactly what kind of a person should we think of as a criminal, Bill?

My, my, my.

Posted by: John | Jun 14, 2008 11:27:21 AM

John:

Gee, you'd better watch out or karl will say you're guilty of an ad hominem.

Still, unlike karl, I'll give you a substantive answer momentarily.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 14, 2008 11:42:32 AM

John:

"A man who gleefully labored on behalf of a government that has thrown the largest percentage of a population in prison."

of course they could have stayed out of prison by troubling themselves to obey the law, but we wouldn't want to go into that when we can blame everybody else.

If you think the law is wrong, you don't just flout it because you know better. You obey it while working for democratic change.

By the way, your characterization of me applies equally to thousands of career employees in the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, ATF, etc., etc. Do you look down your nose at them too?

"Who fancies himself as caring about victims but who never stepped into the poor, black communities on whose behalf he deludes himself into thinking he has helped."

I'll be waiting for either your evidence to back this up, or a retraction.

"A man who threw money at the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth to demean the service of a war veteran."

I wish I had money to "throw" at anything. I contributed to the Swift Boat Veterans, you bet. I also gave to Joe Lieberman. I never demeaned Kerry's service, and don't now, but I didn't and don't think he was entitled to exaggerate it, which was the principal point made by his fellow veterans -- the ones you now demean.

Incidentally, I trust your post means that you'll be voting for McCain this year, a veteran whose military sacrifices dwarf those of Mr. Kerry (and almost anybody else who managed to get out alive).

Also, could you tell us what groups you contributed to, and how that can be verified? Oh, wait, you post anonymously! Never mind.

"A man who wrote that Scooter Libby should get a commutation even though the guideline called for prison time; and yet, he advocates for the supremacy of the guidelines in all other contexts."

The guidelines allow for downward departures, including downward departures to no jail time. The Supreme Court just approved one for an Ecstacy dealer, Mr. Gall, whose guidelines sentence was almost identical to Libby's. And, just to fill you in, while I was an AUSA, I supported more downward departures than I can remember.

How many did you sponsor?

As for Libby, the liberal Washington Post agreed that a partial commutation was in order, but disagreed as to the extent. The conservative Wall Street Journal also disagreed with me, saying that Libby should have received a full pardon (which I explicitly opposed). Having been criticized from both the left and the right, I guess I must have been doing OK.

I don't know Libby and have never met him, but from what I have read, I wouldn't have any problem if he moved in next door. Unlike the typical criminal, he wasn't out to make a fast buck, he didn't want to sell Ecstasy to my kid, hijack my car, knock over the liquor store, or make off with my wallet while I wasn't looking or by belting me over the head to get it.

"Exactly what kind of a person should we think of as a criminal, Bill?"

John Couey(kidnapper/rapist/killer of nine year-old Jessica Lunsford); Timothy McVeigh (remember him?); Tookie Williams (multiple murderer and founder of the Crips, fortunately since executed by the state of California); John Wayne Gacy (sexually tortured and buried alive more than 30 boys and young men) (fortunately executed several years ago by the state of Illinois); Mike Tyson (thug and rapist); George Ryan (swindler) (former Republican governor of Illinois who spent his career taking bribes); Marion Barry (crack consumer extraordinaire and tax cheat) (former Democratic mayor of D.C.) (best remembered for respecting women with his immortal line, after being arrested, "Goddamn bitch set me up"); Sandy Berger (stole documents from the Library of Congress and lied about it to the FBI) (got no jailtime); Bob Ney (former Republican congressman who essentially spent years selling his office); John Allan Muhammed,the beltway sniper (blew the head off a person who lived near me and worked for the FBI); John Walker (traitor); Aldrich Ames (traitor); Robert Hannsen (traitor); and, I strongly suspect, karl's entire client list (karl having said that he is a former death row defender).

Want more?


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 14, 2008 1:13:48 PM

"By the way, your characterization of me applies equally to thousands of career employees in the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, ATF, etc., etc. Do you look down your nose at them too?"

Asolutely not. I know federal prosecutors who cannot wait for this administration to get the hell out of office so that they can exercise discretion to put people in jail who belong in jail. So that they don't have to report every below-guideline sentence to Washington. This administration has decimated morale in the Justice Department. I would gather that most AUSAs do not think as you do. You are an outlier among your countrymen and among your former colleagues.

And how about Wilbert Lawrence? Does that name ring a bell? How is he any different than Libby? Why did you file an appeal to overturn the judge's sentence of probation in his case? In the mandatory guideline scheme, under what departure provision would Libby have qualified for a departure?

Posted by: John | Jun 14, 2008 3:49:59 PM

John:

Anytime you're ready to tell us how you're qualified to know more about morale at DOJ and in the USAO's than I do, please feel free.

As to your other questions: This is not a one-way street. You said of me in a post earlier today that I am a person "Who fancies himself as caring about victims but who never stepped into the poor, black communities on whose behalf he deludes himself into thinking he has helped."

I responded that I would be waiting for either your evidence to back this up, or a retraction.

I answered your post, at length, but you just ignore my question about what evidence supports your accusation, and fire away with a bunch more questions.

No dice. You answer, then I will. As I say, it's not a one-way street.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 14, 2008 4:21:41 PM

TCCA has denied review of this killer's claim.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 17, 2008 11:20:51 AM

This may be the only time it's ever happened, but George has a good point.

Posted by: anonymous | Jun 18, 2008 11:51:47 AM

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