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Texas death row inmate gets execution postponed
Texas Execution DN2 5079067
This photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows death row inmate Charles Dean Hood who was scheduled for execution at the Texas prison in Huntsville, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. A Texas appeals court stopped the scheduled execution on Tuesday, Sept. 9, after lawyers for Hood questioned the judge who presided over his murder trial 18 years ago about whether she and the district attorney were engaged in a legally improper romance. - photo by Associated Press
    McKINNEY, Texas — 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.’’
    Attorneys for Holland and O’Connell said they were under court order not to discuss their clients’ testimony.
    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court and where Holland was a judge in the mid-1990s, earlier this summer rejected Hood’s efforts to appeal on the grounds of the alleged relationship, citing procedural reasons for the rejection but not addressing the merits of the accusations.
    But the Austin-based appeals court said on Tuesday it would be ‘‘prudent to reconsider the decision we issued’’ in previously dismissing Hood’s appeal that challenged jury instructions.
    Laura Burstein, a spokeswoman for the Texas Defender Service, an anti-death penalty legal group whose attorneys spearheaded the appeal, said the court’s reprieve was limited to Hood’s punishment. She said Hood’s attorneys believed Hood deserves an entire new trial.
    Julie Wallace, whose sister was one of Hood’s two victims, characterized the deposition effort as ‘‘another delay tactic, if you ask me.’’
    ‘‘It doesn’t change the evidence,’’ she said Tuesday. ‘‘His right to due process is what is in question, though I don’t think it was. It is frustrating to say the least.’’
    Hood is a former bouncer at a topless club who was 20 when he was arrested in Indiana for the fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, an ex-dancer, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at Williamson’s home in Plano in 1989.
    Hood has maintained his innocence of the slayings. He was driving Williamson’s $70,000 Cadillac at the time of his arrest. Evidence against him included his fingerprints at the murder scene.
    Hood contended his prints were at Williamson’s home because he was living there and that he had permission to drive the car. Evidence also tied Hood, who had served two years in an Indiana prison for passing bad checks, to the rape of a 15-year-old girl.
    ———
    Associated Press writers Michael Graczyk in Houston, April Castro in Austin and Jeff Carlton in Dallas contributed to this story.