U.S. News

Supreme Court rejects killer's affair-based appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court rejected on Monday an appeal by a former Texas death row inmate who argued his right to a fair trial was violated because the judge and the prosecutor in his case had an affair.

The justices refused to hear the appeal by Charles Hood, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murders of a couple in Texas with whom he had been living. Hood has maintained his innocence.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals earlier this year overturned Hood’s death sentence because of flawed jury instructions and ruled that he should get a new sentencing hearing.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Hood’s attorneys argued he should get a new trial because of the affair between Thomas O’Connell, the former district attorney of Collin County, Texas who prosecuted the case, and Verla Sue Holland, the trial judge.

O’Connell and Holland admitted under oath in 2008 their secret relationship, saying it had ended in 1987, three years before Hood’s trial.

Hood’s attorneys and supporters said the affair cast doubt on the impartiality and the fairness of the trial, violating his constitutional rights.

They appealed to the Supreme Court after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Hood had waited too long in raising the issue of whether Holland had a conflict of interest and should have recused herself from the case.

The Supreme Court rejected Hood’s appeal without comment.

Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Paul Simao