Alleged court love affair shadows Texas execution

HOUSTON Fri Sep 5, 2008 5:02pm EDT

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - Days before the scheduled execution of a convicted killer, Texas' attorney general has asked for a review of allegations by the condemned inmate that the judge and prosecutor in the case were having an affair.

Charles Dean Hood, who is scheduled to go to the Texas death chamber on Wednesday, claims that former Collin County Judge Verla Sue Holland and Collin County District Attorney Thomas O'Connell had a secret, intimate relationship.

Hood and his lawyers contend the affair lasted for years, including during Hood's 1990 trial.

O'Connell and Holland were not available for comment.

In a letter dated Thursday, Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, asked that the allegations be reviewed, even if it meant delaying Hood's execution.

"The impartiality of a defendant's trial and conviction must be beyond reproach," Abbott wrote in a letter to the current Collin County district attorney, John Roach.

"Thus, before the state carries out the ultimate, irreversible punishment, the appropriate trial court should thoroughly review this matter," Abbott said.

Hood's allegations have yet to be reviewed by a court. A state judge originally scheduled a hearing on the matter two days after Hood was due to be put to death. He rescued himself from the case, and another state judge set a hearing for Monday, two days before Hood's execution.

On Tuesday, a group of former federal and state judges and prosecutors from across the country asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry to grant Hood a reprieve that would allow the courts to review the allegations against Holland and O'Connell.

That group included former FBI Director William Sessions.

A spokeswoman for Perry's office said he had yet to make a decision on the case.

Hood, 39, was convicted of shooting to death his boss and the boss' girlfriend. He stole the man's car, some jewelry and credit cards, fled and was caught in Indiana, according to trial evidence.

(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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