The story of Charles Dean Hood, who was scheduled to die tonight for the 1989 murder of Ronald Williamson and his girlfriend Tracie Wallace in Plano, has garnered national attention since at least 2005, when Salon first broke the story that State District Court Judge Verla Sue Holland and Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell were allegedly having an affair during the time of Hood's trial in 1990. The story asked the question: "Let's say you're on trial for murder, and the judge and the prosecutor in your case have been having an affair. Is it possible for you to get a fair trial?" Hood and his attorneys certainly didn't think so, as Salon noted in is follow-up this week. Neither does CBS News analyst Andrew Cohen, who today wrote:
I have no idea whether Hood is guilty of his crimes or not -- the odds say that he is. For all I know there was plenty of good evidence against him and another judge might also have rendered decisions leading to Hood’s conviction. But right now that is not the point. Right now the point is to determine, before it is too late for Hood, whether the law in America -- and not just in Texas -- permits a capital conviction when such a potentially blatant conflict of interest exists.
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Apparently, notoriously conservative State District Judge Curt Henderson agrees, as moments ago he withdrew the execution warrant after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday refused to hear the appeal. Which means Charles Dean Hood, like Buffalo Chambers yesterday, will live to see another day. --Robert Wilonsky