No New Trial, Despite Prosecutor-Judge Affair

     (CN) - A love affair between the prosecutor and judge in a capital murder case doesn't entitle the convicted defendant to a new trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled.
     In a 6-3 decision, the state's highest criminal court ruled that Charles D. Hood, who was sentenced to death for a 1989 murder and robbery, waited too long to raise the argument that the relationship tainted his 1990 trial.
     Hood said the affair between Collin County Judge Verla Sue Holland and prosecutor Thomas S. O'Connell Jr. was "common knowledge" at the time of trial.
     Hood's lawyers later confirmed the relationship by compelling Holland and O'Connell to give depositions under oath. Both have since retired.
     The appeals court overturned the ruling of a district court judge, who said the liaison stripped Hood of a fair trial.
     But the criminal appeals court sidestepped that aspect of the case, instead ruling that Hood should have raised the argument in earlier appeals.
     In a terse dissent, Judge Cochran noted that Hood tried to raise the argument earlier, but was unable to prove the rumors true until the September 2008 depositions.
     "Rumors and gossip, no matter how widespread, how detailed, or how extravagant, are not facts," Cochran wrote.
     Hood did his best to expose the affair, Cochran said, but the canoodling pair "took deliberate measures to ensure that the affair would remain secret."
     Because of this due diligence on Hood's part, the judge argued, the state can't use his delayed argument as the basis for denying a new trial.