Yesterday the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the death sentence in the case of Charles D. Hood, which attracted attention this week for revelations of sex-behind-the-scenes of Hood’s original trial in 1990.
He was convicted of shooting a couple he lived with in Plano, Texas, though he has consistently denied guilt. He has spent his nearly two decades in jail trying to prove that the extramarital affair between the prosecutor and judge in his trial was a conflict of interest that unfairly coloured the proceedings.
The Court of Criminal Appeals denied his request for a new trial last September, despite the fact that Judge Verla Sue Holland and prosecutor Thomas O’Connell copped to the transgression, ruling that he had waited too long to bring the accusations. In a 6-to-3 vote, Hood’s death sentence remained.
Judge Holland has said that the affair ended three years before the trial.
But in a new opinion released yesterday, the court ruled that the jury in the original case was not told enough about Hood’s learning disabilities and an early childhood trauma, which, if included, might have led to a less severe sentence.
New York Times: Such questions about jury instructions are an area of legal dispute that has bounced from state courts to the United States Supreme Court and back over the past 20 years. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has called the result “a dog’s breakfast of divided, conflicting, and ever-changing analysis.”
With the equivalent of a textual sigh, Judge Cathy Cochran wrote in the Texas court’s majority opinion that, “We wade once more into the murky waters” of jury instruction; and the majority ruled that Mr. Hood deserved a new hearing on the question of punishment.
The decision is not wholly appealing to anyone. Hood wants to be re-tried on the question of his guilt, the opposing judges want the case thrown out on account of the latency of the appeal, and others (including former Texas Governor Mark White) are upset that the issue of the extramarital affair and tainted justice is not being addressed.
Read more about the new ruling and background at the NYTimes.
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