Death row inmate says judge and prosecutor dated

From the Austin American-Statesman:

The capital murder conviction of Charles Dean Hood, who is set to be executed Tuesday, should be overturned because the judge at his 1990 trial was secretly dating the district attorney, an appeal filed Thursday alleged.

Judge Verla Sue Holland, now retired, could not have provided Hood with a fair and impartial trial while involved in a long-term intimate relationship with then-Collin County District Attorney Tom O’Connell, the appeal said. O’Connell played an active role in prosecuting Hood for the double murder that put him on death row.

Appellate lawyers tried to verify that a relationship existed [in 2004 and 2005] without success …. This summer, with a new execution date approaching, Hood’s lawyers caught a break when a former assistant district attorney signed a sworn statement June 3 calling the Holland-O’Connell relationship “common knowledge” in the prosecutor’s office. Matthew Goeller, now a Plano lawyer in private practice, said the relationship was in existence in 1987, when Goeller joined the district attorney’s office. Goeller also said it “existed during the trial of Charles Dean Hood” and ended in 1993.

Holland and O’Connell, now in private practice in Plano, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment. According to the Texas Constitution, judges cannot sit on cases where they have a personal interest or “where either of the parties may be connected with the judge.”