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Were former Collin County DA Tom O'Connell and retired 296th District Judge Sue Holland having an extra-marital affair during the trial of convicted murderer Charles Dean Hood?
Did that affair cause the Judge Holland to loose her impartiality?
These questions are haunting defense attorneys as they maneuver to try to stop Hood's pending execution.
Rumors of an affair between the judge and DA were common knowledge, at least according to the local lawyers I've spoken to... and according to a sworn affidavit by former Assistant DA, Matthew Goeller.
This week's issue of Texas Lawyer looks at the legal principles behind the recent defense lawsuit seeking sworn depositions from both O'Connell and Holland.
To date, neither O'Connell nor Holland have been willing to either confirm or deny that they were involved in a sexual relationship while O'Connell helped prosecute the capital case against Hood in Judge Holland's court.
Death Row Inmate Wants Rule 202 Depos of Former Judge, Former DA
By Mary Alice Robbins / Texas Lawyer
August 25, 2008
In an unusual use of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202, death row inmate Charles Dean Hood has filed a petition in Collin County seeking to take the depositions of the judge and prosecutor for his 1990 trial.
According to the petition, filed Aug. 19 in a Collin County court-at-law and refiled Aug. 20 in the 199th District Court, Hood seeks to depose former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell and former 296th District Judge Sue Holland, also a former judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, "to investigate potential actions civil in nature" against one or both of them. The potential actions include possible claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983.
Hood also is asking the district court to order Holland and O'Connell to provide to him, among other things, any letters, cards and gifts that Holland and O'Connell have exchanged, photographs and videotapes showing them together, and e-mails or text messages from Holland or O'Connell to anyone else that pertain to Hood's recent allegations that they had an affair.
"Based on information and belief, it appears that, during Petitioner's capital murder trial, Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell were engaged in a secret, long term, intimate relationship," the petition states. "Petitioner has only recently received highly credible evidence supporting this allegation."
Matthew Goeller, an assistant district attorney in Collin County from 1987 to 1996, asserts in a June 3 affidavit that it was common knowledge in the DA's office that O'Connell and Holland had a "romantic relationship." According to the affidavit, the relationship between O'Connell and Holland existed during Hood's trial for the 1989 slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace in Plano.
The unusual request for a civil deposition is necessary, because Hood can't get them any other way, says his lawyer, California solo A. Richard Ellis. "This was the only available way, as we perceive it, to get a deposition before the execution date," Ellis says of the petition. "They are in the only position to verify the allegations -- or deny them."
Previous CCO coverage:
DMN - Editorial: Ethics questions in Charles Dean Hood case - June 30, 2008
DMN - Affair rumors may delay execution of Plano couple's killer - June 13, 2008
Keep up the good work Bill. The voters deserve to know the TRUTH.
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