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June 17, 2008

Hood execution stopped at last minute

According to this AP article, a "state district judge has put off the scheduled execution of Charles Dean Hood for a double slaying in suburban Dallas almost 20 years ago."  Here's more:

In an order signed just over an hour before Hood could have gone to the death chamber Tuesday night, state District Judge Curt Henderson withdrew the execution warrant after defense attorneys for the inmate had sought any correspondence in the Collin County district attorney's office that could be related to accusations of a long-standing romantic relationship between one of Hood's prosecutors and the judge who presided over his trial in 1990.

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Comments

Apparently, that judge in Collin County didn't have the authroity to yank the warrant. He should write a letter of apology to the victims' families.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 9:25:54 AM

Federalist, you should write a letter of apology to Reason and Common Sense. You may need to find a translator, though - I'm not sure you speak their language.

The idea that no court will likely ever hear evidence regarding the alleged affair between the judge and prosecutor during trial is the kind of debacle that should shake the confidence of even the most avid death penalty supporters, at least if you want capital punishment to continue. As I wrote on Grits:

"All of the recent SCOTUS-created restrictions on the death penalty - for juveniles, for the mentally retarded, in cases where black jurors were eliminated because of race - were established because of routine abuses, both real and perceived, allowed in Texas courts by the CCA. In each instance, SCOTUS found Texas' judicial practices so egregious it eliminated the death penalty or ordered new trials for large classes of defendants. I've often thought that if SCOTUS ever does wind up abolishing the death penalty entirely down the line, it might well be because Texas does the most executions and our courts aren't giving these cases enough scrutiny."

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 18, 2008 10:00:34 AM

Cute, grits. The bottom line is that all these guys have is an affidavit about "common knowledge". They waited until the last minute to file the claim. And that's that. The execution should not have been stayed on that basis, and it was wrong to do so. This guy did it--he's had years of appeals. Time for this to be over. The stay was appallingly cruel to the family members.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 10:16:07 AM

Gritsforbreakfast,

Are you serious? Atkins v. Virginia was from, umm, Virginia. Roper v. Simmons was from Missouri.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 18, 2008 10:18:50 AM

If the judge and the prosecutor hadn't been sleeping together none of this would have happened. They should write the apology letter.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 18, 2008 10:34:18 AM

Atkins was in VA, but it was Texas cases like Penry that gave it teeth when Texas courts wouldn't abide by the decision. The cases on eliminating black jurors were from Tx. On Roper, true enough it's from Missouri, but for several reasons I'm not sure that case ever makes if Texas hadn't previously executed Napoleon Beazley.

But the overall reference is that Texas courts' more routine misbehavior is primarily what keeps SCOTUS revisiting the DP over and over, or as Doug once put it, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Fifth Circuit seem "almost systematically disinclined to reverse troublesome death sentences."

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 18, 2008 10:39:44 AM

Gritsforbreakfast,

So when you claimed that "[i]n each instance, SCOTUS found Texas' judicial practices so egregious it eliminated the death penalty or ordered new trials for large classes of defendants," wasn't that a bit disingenuous?

Posted by: Steve | Jun 18, 2008 10:44:27 AM

Steve: No, I don't.

"Disingenuous" is an insult to motive. If that was your intention, it's an appellation that can only be applied from without. I'd have said "sloppy," but will accept your judgment.

In any event, to clarify with the above caveats, it's my view that Texas courts' routine overreaching has been perhaps the single biggest factor in SCOTUS' heightened oversight of the death penalty in the last decade or so. Do you honestly think that's wrong?

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jun 18, 2008 10:56:05 AM

Grits, when you start out your posts with an insult yourself, you really cannot complain when someone insults you.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 11:04:36 AM

Gritsforbreakfast,

You may be right, but my point is that is not what you wrote. I believe you wrote what you did because you believed it would strengthen your argument about Hood to insinuate that, each time that the Court has contracted the scope of the death penalty, it was in a case from Texas. I called you out on it, and you responded by saying, essentially, "well, this was what I really meant."

Posted by: Steve | Jun 18, 2008 11:10:48 AM

So-called “victims” should NEVER get any apologies from a judicial officer. Luckily, they don’t. Family members have no right to see someone killed. At best, they have a right to sit in the audience quietly. (Obviously they should be barred from the courtroom if they are going to be witnesses or they act up, as families tend to do.) They can sue the defendant if they want, but their lawsuits take a back seat to criminal proceedings. Otherwise, they get nothing.

We will see how the proceedings develop. Maybe they were having an affair. Maybe not. Maybe it didn’t make a difference. Maybe the prosecutor was using the judge to advance her career, and the judge was just using the prosecutor for sex. In this case they were not actually having an affair in my book, and maybe no prejudice resulted.

If I were a judge, I require an affidavit from someone that had personal knowledge of the mental states of the judge and prosecutor? Not sure. On the one hand, executions are a fund spectacle and children of all ages should be allowed to watch the ritual in which the state gets to kill someone. On the other hand, it might be hard to actually prove that the judge wasn’t just using the prosecutor for sex, or the prosecutor wasn’t trading sex for security.

I suppose Grits has an interesting point. The biggest “enemies” of the death penalty are probably the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Fifth Circuit. Neither court takes their role too seriously, and as a result there are plenty of condemned people out there who will become good poster children for the unjustness of the death penalty. If these courts took their job a bit more seriously, Texas would only get to kill the people whose sentences were justly obtained. Alas, they don’t.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 18, 2008 12:07:59 PM

Nice quote, S.cotus--"so-called 'victims'"--not only are you not that bright, but you are also morally obtuse.

The next two paragraphs in your post remind me of the following quote: "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 12:25:24 PM

"...it was Texas cases like Penry that gave it teeth when Texas courts wouldn't abide by the decision."

Given the incoherence of the Supreme Court's Texas cases as a whole, I think it is a half-truth to say the Texas courts were not abiding by one case out of the whole. Penry seemed to overrule Jurek without admitting it was doing so. Then Graham and Johnson said no, it didn't, and interpreted Penry much more narrowly than the language of that opinion would indicate. Then the more recent cases said, in effect, that Graham and Johnson don't really say what they said.

The blame for this mess lies at the doorstep of the Supreme Court itself, not the Texas courts' supposed noncompliance.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jun 18, 2008 2:07:17 PM

"This guy did it--he's had years of appeals." You have completely missed the point here. Whether he "did it" or not should not be the issue. The issue is the process by which the State--acting on my behalf--gets to kill somebody. If the process used by the State to kill somebody is infected with a personal relationship between the State's attorney and the judge overseeing the case, that process is fundamentally flawed. The State is allowed to strike hard blows, but they must be fair blows.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 18, 2008 2:08:23 PM

Mark, that's an utterly simplistic view of the current issue--so, no I don't think I missed the point.

You write, "If the the process used by the state . . . ." Well, the first word, "if", is the rub, isn't it? So what are we going to do here? Clearly, the convict's attorneys knew about the allegations of an affair years ago, yet did not raise the issue. Thus, there is an issue as to whether they have waited far too long to raise this claim. Second, even assuming that they have not waived this claim by reason of being dilatory, there is the issue of whether we are going to indefinitely stay an execution date (a date which was set after years of appeals) and permit a coercive judicial inquiry on the say-so of some guy who stated that an affair was "common knowledge".

Sloganeering, as you do in your post, Mark, doesn't really address these two issues. Now, you can state that getting it right (or whatever equivalent phrasing) trumps all other concerns (finality, not allowing last-minute gamesmanship to succeed etc.) But that's not a generally held view.

So, Mark, do you still think I miss the point?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 2:34:29 PM

Grits, are you competing with S.cotus for dumbest post on this site? S.cotus' doozy about "selective incorporation" is still unsurpassed, but you are giving him a run for the money. You write:

"On Roper, true enough it's from Missouri, but for several reasons I'm not sure that case ever makes if Texas hadn't previously executed Napoleon Beazley."

First of all, it's flat-out wrong to suggest that Texas was doing anything but following the law when Beazley was put down. Second, and more importantly, the Missouri Supreme Court, led by the guy, Ronnie White, who was on academic probation in law school, had held that the Constitution barred the imposition of the death penalty for juvenile offenders. Given that the Supreme Court had held the exact opposite 15 years or so earlier, the execution of Napoleon Beazley probably had nothing to do with whether or not the Court granted cert.


Posted by: federalist | Jun 18, 2008 2:53:00 PM

Federalist, You seem obsessed with the irrelevant. In this case selective incorporation is not an issue. You might be able to convince more people of your point if you would stick to the topic at hand. Even though your entire analysis seems to revolve around insulting people, I urge you to keep up the good work.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 18, 2008 3:19:52 PM

federalist wrote: "You write, 'If the the process used by the state . . . .' Well, the first word, 'if', is the rub, isn't it? So what are we going to do here? Clearly, the convict's attorneys knew about the allegations of an affair years ago, yet did not raise the issue."

And being the utter Statist you are, you fail entirely to appreciate the State's hiding of the crucial facts. Neither the judge nor the prosecutor disclosed their relationship at trial or to this day, despite their constitutional and ethical obligations to do so. I understand that you think government officials have no responsibilities to the citizens they serve and should not be held accountable for any actions they take, but some of us thankfully think otherwise.

federalist continued: "Thus, there is an issue as to whether they have waited far too long to raise this claim. Second, even assuming that they have not waived this claim by reason of being dilatory, there is the issue of whether we are going to indefinitely stay an execution date (a date which was set after years of appeals) and permit a coercive judicial inquiry on the say-so of some guy who stated that an affair was 'common knowledge'."

That "some guy" was an assistant district attorney in the office at the time and the first "some guy" willing to go on the record about it. And given the failure of either the judge or the district attorney to deny the relationship, I think a coercive judicial inquiry is the least that should be done. Imprisonment for rank and willful abuse of their official office, of course, is the most. Because you're a pro-government Statist who takes knee before power and authority--properly exercised or not and with or without the correct facts--I know you will disagree, we'll be sure to keep your anti-citizen outlook in mind when considering your responses.

Posted by: DK | Jun 18, 2008 11:10:20 PM

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