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September 21, 2009 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Charles Hood, sentenced to death for a double murder committed in 1989, is currently fighting for his conviction to be overturned and subsequent death sentenced to be stayed. Why? Because the lead prosecutor and judge were having an alleged affair at the time of the trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, no strangers to controversy regarding the possible misuse of the death penalty, declined to hear the petition lodged by Hood's lawyers regarding the fairness of the trial saying the defense should have brought the issue up at trial despite the lack of evidence towards the allegations until recently.

The Salon article "Ardor in the Court" is Part 3 of a 3 part series. Previously, Part 2 and Part 1.
posted by Talez (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
OK, that's not even pretending anymore.
posted by effugas at 10:36 PM on September 21, 2009


Unbelievable. Not that it would be feasible in Texas, but can any of those judges be impeached or removed from office? I still find it unbelievable that judges can campaign for their jobs.
posted by dealing away at 10:57 PM on September 21, 2009


The argument that the defense should've brought up the issue at trial despite having no way to prove it is akin to the Supreme Court's ruling that women who are paid less than men for the same work must find out and sue within the first 180 days of employment or else be ineligible. Simply monstrous.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:58 PM on September 21, 2009 [14 favorites]


Nothing "alleged" about the affair having occurred; both Judge Holland and D.A. O'Connell have admitted to it under oath. Whether the affair was going on during the Hood trial (1990) is less clear, and they both claim it was over beforehand. However, O'Connell testified that they took a trip together in 1991. Hmm.

Whether they were hooking up at the time of Hood's trial seems less relevant than the fact that there was a relationship at all. It seems highly improper to me, and Part 3 of the Salon article says that "[a] score of legal ethicists concluded that the participation of the two at Hood's trial was unethical, unprofessional and unconstitutional."

Anyway, in other Texas death penalty news, evidence is mounting that we executed an innocent man.

*sigh*
posted by scatter gather at 11:07 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


The entire time I watched the Wire I waited for something like this to be an issue.
posted by GilloD at 11:13 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


My question to the legal eagles out there.

Hood's lawyer speaks of the difficulty of getting heard in a federal court of appeals. This seems like a fairly open and shut case of violating the sixth amendment. Could this be brought to the US Court of Appeals under constitutional grounds due to the probable violation of Hood's sixth amendment rights?
posted by Talez at 11:21 PM on September 21, 2009


Not that it would be feasible in Texas, but can any of those judges be impeached or removed from office?

Not sure why you say it wouldn't be "feasible" in Texas, but there are mechanisms in place for removing bad judges.

Keller faced a misconduct trial before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct but a decision has not been announced yet. From the second link: "The commission's options are to dismiss the complaint against Keller, censure her or recommend to the Texas Supreme Court that she be removed from the bench."
posted by scatter gather at 11:39 PM on September 21, 2009


Not sure why you say it wouldn't be "feasible" in Texas

A generalization based on the belief that Texans are mavericks that love to see people executed and wouldn't dare think of replacing their hardline "give those criminals what they deserve!" style justice system like some wussy death penalty hating state like Taxachusetts.
posted by Talez at 11:49 PM on September 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


A generalization based on the belief that Texans are mavericks that love to see people executed and wouldn't dare think of replacing their hardline "give those criminals what they deserve!" style justice system like some wussy death penalty hating state like Taxachusetts.
posted by Talez at 11:49 PM on September 21 [+] [!]


This nasty streak that Texans seem to have troubles me. I still don't see where it comes from. Every Texan I've ever met has been extremely nice. Heck, when I was little my family was in Houston staying overnight and when asking for directions to the nearest movie theatre, a cop even gave us a lift.

I have difficulty believing that this is just because I'm white, then I turn on the news.
posted by Pseudology at 11:59 PM on September 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nice is a behavior that can be turned on and off according to the individual's perception of you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:13 AM on September 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nice is a behavior that can be turned on and off according to the individual's perception of you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:13 AM on September 22 [+] [!]


yea, I've just never seen Texans turn their nice behavior off.
posted by Pseudology at 12:21 AM on September 22, 2009


Yeah, chalk me up as bewildered about Texas, and Texans. I have a lot of prejudice against them in aggregate, but every Texan I've met has been really warm and caring.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:47 AM on September 22, 2009


Surely this is the sort of thing that should make some higher power (I'm not entirely familiar with the intricacies of the system of US courts) step in and suspend the two idiots from their positions immediately, then hold the hearings to see if they can come up with some cast-iron solid defence of why they should be allowed to continue practising in any capacity whatever?

Or would that be far too sensible?
posted by Dysk at 1:46 AM on September 22, 2009


I can't believe how cynical I've become. Of course this happens. Of course this happened before women were even allowed near law books. This is yet another inevitable piece of collateral damage that comes with the death penalty.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:48 AM on September 22, 2009


Yeah, chalk me up as bewildered about Texas, and Texans. I have a lot of prejudice against them in aggregate, but every Texan I've met has been really warm and caring.

That's 'cause y'all are good people. Criminals ain't people.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:23 AM on September 22, 2009


I am so goddamned tired of having to explain to ignorant people that Texas is not an evil, hateful state filled with corrupt politicians and racist jerks.

A little help in this problem from the judiciary would be nice. I mean, if they could just clean things up a little, I probably wouldn't find myself explaining this so often.

Just a little help, guys. All you'd have to do is your jobs.
posted by koeselitz at 4:24 AM on September 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dark Messiah: That's 'cause y'all are good people. Criminals ain't people.

All you Canadians move out of your Eskimo-igloos yet?
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 AM on September 22, 2009


Sorry, that was too subtle. I should have just said: Dark Messiah, go to hell.
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 AM on September 22, 2009


every Texan I've met has been really warm and caring

Those are just the ones that got out. There's a small country's worth still inside. Most of them not only don't want to come out, they hardly believe there's an out out there worth seeing, anyway. Kinda like New Yorkers, except with New York they're sorta' right.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:27 AM on September 22, 2009


/San Antonian
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:28 AM on September 22, 2009


All you Canadians move out of your Eskimo-igloos yet?

Yep.

Just before we joined the rest of the civilized world and stopped killing our criminals.
posted by chunking express at 6:35 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


chunking express: Just before we joined the rest of the civilized world and stopped killing our criminals.

See, that's what I meant when I said I was being too subtle.

My point: that Dark Messiah was stereotyping people in an assholish way. First, he assumed that BrotherCaine was actually in Texas (apparently because everybody lives in Texas down here, I don't know) and then he assumed that that meant that BrotherCaine doesn't think criminals are people.

I don't cast aspersions on Canadians; and I think your attitude toward executions is quite noble compared to ours. And if there's one Canadian who happens to be a jerk, well, I don't hold that against the rest of you. Sorry if I implied otherwise.
posted by koeselitz at 6:41 AM on September 22, 2009


The other day, I was thinking about Japan's capital punishment system. Other than numbers, how do we compare to the other liberal democracies that execute? Anyone know?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:15 AM on September 22, 2009


My point: that Dark Messiah was stereotyping people in an assholish way. First, he assumed that BrotherCaine was actually in Texas (apparently because everybody lives in Texas down here, I don't know) and then he assumed that that meant that BrotherCaine doesn't think criminals are people.

koeselitz, I think you misread Dark Messiah's comment. Look again:

BrotherCaine wrote: Yeah, chalk me up as bewildered about Texas, and Texans. I have a lot of prejudice against them in aggregate, but every Texan I've met has been really warm and caring.

Dark Messiah responded: That's 'cause y'all are good people. Criminals ain't people

I read that as Dark Messiah (incorrectly) using "y'all" to refer not to Texans, but to Brother Caine the individual. He's implying that Brother Caine's "warm and caring" interactions with Texans are due solely to the fact that Brother Caine is perceived by the Texans he's met as "good people" (read: white), and not a criminal or non-person (read: black).

So, while not at all a charitable take on the good(?) people of Texas, it was in no way an attack on Brother Caine.
posted by Atom Eyes at 7:42 AM on September 22, 2009


"I don't have anything against Texans, some of my best friends are Texans!"
posted by kmz at 7:42 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I normally avoid threads involving Texas on metafilter because it kind of upsets me to feel lumped into the lazy caricature that some mefites foster regarding the people that live here. On the other hand, I know that some of the goings-on over here are pretty disgusting. Let me just say this: Please, please, please don't think for a second that there aren't Texans out there who are upset and angry that shit like this goes on in our state.
posted by kryptondog at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice is a behavior that can be turned on and off according to the individual's perception of you.

When you learn this for the first time, you've lost all childish innocence. I've always thought it truly heart breaking knowledge.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2009


koeselitz, you're welcome to visit my igloo any time, even the summer. We Canadians can stay in them all year round now thanks to new and specialized external freezing technique. An Igloo is a great place for a labor day party!

Seriously, though, I know people who someone who slept in an igloo for a few months because the winter rental rates out here were too expensive. They're more a winter camping shelter than anything else but they still get used on occasion.
posted by Pseudology at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2009


Y'all can be bewildering when it is misused. All y'all remember that, please.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2009


Pseudology: "This nasty streak that Texans seem to have troubles me. I still don't see where it comes from. Every Texan I've ever met has been extremely nice... I have difficulty believing that this is just because I'm white, then I turn on the news."

Look, people from Texas are really nice. It's true. Totally true. And while there are certainly some Texans who are super nice to you and me because we're white, there are also plenty of Texans who are just straight up nice regardless of color. Some of them move out of state, sure, but plenty of them stay behind. That's why South Texas is so strongly multi-cultural. (note: this isn't to say that things are perfect there, but they're not perfect anywhere. texas has those evil border patrol militia fucks, and new york has the NYPD.)

so consider this possibility: what's going on here is not because "Texans are racist." maybe this is happening because "Texas government is incredibly corrupt." Sure, that manifests as racism at the judicial and gubernatorial and sherriff level. sure. but it's corruption that's the problem. corruption is what keeps racists in their positions. not that NY or LA or anyplace doesn't also have the same problem, mind you. shit, just ask Rodney King or Amadou Diallo.

but I think it's worth remembering that painting an entire state full of people with the same brush is bound to be almost as inaccurate as painting any group of people with one generalized brush.
posted by shmegegge at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]



I only mentioned the feasiability of removing the judges because I always thought the perception of general public in Texas was that toughness on criminals is a value to be cherished. I wasn't trying to portray Texans in general in a negative light.

Also, thanks scatter gather for the quote. I missed it when I read it.
posted by dealing away at 9:34 AM on September 22, 2009


For once, I'd actually rather hear the Mefi lawyers with their long comments throwing citations back and forth. Please come and discuss this ruling so there isn't anymore Texas talk!

I want to understand this ruling. I understand the need for time limits. It wouldn't seem right if the defense could just keep coming up with new issues to raise at appeal forever and ever. But this seems like severe misconduct, and the evidence wasn't available before.

And is there a federal case? Could this be a constitutional violation of some kind?
posted by Danila at 9:47 AM on September 22, 2009


so consider this possibility: what's going on here is not because "Texans are racist." maybe this is happening because "Texas government is incredibly corrupt." Sure, that manifests as racism at the judicial and gubernatorial and sherriff level. sure. but it's corruption that's the problem. corruption is what keeps racists in their positions. not that NY or LA or anyplace doesn't also have the same problem, mind you. shit, just ask Rodney King or Amadou Diallo.
I think what's more befuddling to people is not that there are some racists or corrupt officials but that the corruption/vindictiveness seems to be accepted and part and parcel of the culture up at the highest levels of government. It's one thing to say that there might be a few "bad apples." It's another thing when you start to wonder if the public representatives of the state in the form of the judges, prosecutors, and politicians are just reflecting the underlying beliefs and inner soul of the dominant culture.
posted by deanc at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2009


All y'all talking about us racist Texans are aware that Charles Hood is white, right?
posted by IanMorr at 10:53 AM on September 22, 2009


deanc: "I think what's more befuddling to people is not that there are some racists or corrupt officials but that the corruption/vindictiveness seems to be accepted and part and parcel of the culture up at the highest levels of government."

absolutely, and there was an earlier draft of my comment that said precisely the same thing. I ended up taking it out because I can't honestly say I'm intimately familiar with Texas politics. But yes, that certainly seems to be a systemic problem in Texas, if documentaries like The Thin Blue Line are any indication.

Of course, I also believe pretty strongly that the same exists in NYC and LA and other places.
posted by shmegegge at 10:55 AM on September 22, 2009


IanMorr: "All y'all talking about us racist Texans are aware that Charles Hood is white, right?"

yeah, this has become a bit of a tangential discussion. texas is a tough topic on metafilter, unfortunately.
posted by shmegegge at 10:56 AM on September 22, 2009


Agreed. Best not to even mess with it, I suppose.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why doesn't anyone ever complain about Oklahoma during these discussions about capital punishment? On a per capita basis, Oklahoma has an execution rate that is 33% higher than that of Texas since 1976. It's not getting any better, either -- so far this year, Oklahoma has executed 1/5 (3/17) the number of people as Texas even though the population of Oklahoma is about 1/8 (3/24 million) that of Texas. If you want to portray an entire state as stone cold killers, Oklahoma is the odds-on favorite.

BTW, if you want to go by sheer numbers, Virginia is the all-time leader with close to 1400 executions against 1200 by Texas. (The purveyor of this statement makes no guarantee that it will be operable after 1 Jul 2010.)
posted by joaquim at 11:30 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


joaquim: "Why doesn't anyone ever complain about Oklahoma during these discussions about capital punishment?"

complaining's the kind of thing you have to do for yourself. nobody's gonna do it for you.
posted by shmegegge at 12:02 PM on September 22, 2009


Speaking of Virginia, this case has made me curious because the reasoning reminds me so much of Virginia's old "21 day rule", when new evidence couldn't be introduced more than three weeks after the original sentencing. DNA evidence couldn't even be introduced if 21 days had passed, even in cases where the technology wasn't available at the time of the trial. I read that the rule has since been removed for death penalty cases when the new evidence is biological (which is still problematic). But the ludicrousness of such a strict guideline was brought to my mind after reading about this case.

I really do wonder if there is a federal case here. The defense doesn't seem too optimistic, and I don't know anything really about this sort of thing. It just seems too outrageous to let go.
posted by Danila at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2009


complaining's the kind of thing you have to do for yourself. nobody's gonna do it for you.
I wasn't complaining. I was curious -- hence, the question.

My view of the US judicial system is that the only crime that ever gets punished is having bad luck -- bad luck you got caught, or can't afford a good lawyer, or you are a minority who looks like every other member of that minority to the witnesses, or you get tried during an election year, or the jury is made up of your actual peers, or you get sentenced by a judge who didn't get laid the night before, etc. The part that's hard to accept is that there's no law against having bad luck. Once you get past that, however, it's pretty easy to ignore every judicial injustice that comes along. It's not that the defendant was in a coma the night of the murder or that the judge was sleeping with the victim, it's that the defendant is guilty of having bad luck. That's why he's being punished.
posted by joaquim at 2:28 PM on September 22, 2009


Yeah, chalk me up as bewildered about Texas, and Texans. I have a lot of prejudice against them in aggregate, but every Texan I've met has been really warm and caring.

This kind of applies to me and my home state of Tennessee. I have just moved back after many years in the great white north and find myself puzzled and befuddled at all the nice people who literally would give you the shirt off their backs turn into the girl from the Exorcist when someone mentions the president or health care. I love the south, I missed the south, but damned if it isn't a very confusing place for a progressive soul these days.
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


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