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CCA reverses itself, overturns death penalty in Hood case


A bitterly divided Court of Criminal Appeals granted a new sentencing trial for [Charles Dean] Hood based on frequently shifting U.S. Supreme Court rulings on flawed jury instructions used prior to 1991.

The 5-4 decision did not affect Hood’s 1990 conviction in the shooting death of two people in Plano. But in granting a new punishment phase trial, the court reversed its 2007 decision on a similar Hood appeal, prompting a sharply worded dissent that included a rare direct attack on one of the majority’s judges.


Hood’s case became national news because he is fighting for a new trial based on the revelation — confirmed in 2008 after several years of digging by defense lawyers — that then-District Judge Verla Sue Holland had been having a secret affair with Thomas O’Connell Jr., the former Collin County district attorney who prosecuted Hood.

In a separate appeal now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hood argues that it is unfair to be tried for any crime, let alone capital murder, in a court where the judge and chief prosecutor are romantically linked. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected that argument last year, ruling 6-3 that Hood’s lawyers waited too long to raise the issue on appeal.

The CCA did not address the matter of whether or not a sitting judge and a prosecutor may bone one another without legal consequence. Given the difficulty with which they’ve had even describing the situation, that may be for the best. Anyway, as noted there’s still a Supreme Court appeal over the original trial. I can’t wait to see what they make of it. More from Grits here and here.

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