HOUSTON (CBS/AP) An admitted extramarital affair between the prosecutor and presiding judge in the 1990 capital murder trial of Charles Dean Hood does not merit overturning his conviction, the United States Supreme Court ruled Monday.
In his Supreme Court appeal, Hood, who has been on death row in Texas for 20 years, sought an entirely new trial, based on the once-secret romantic relationship between his trial judge, Verla Sue Holland, and Tom O'Connell, the former district attorney in Collin County.
"We are disheartened [by the ruling]," said Andrea Keilen, director of the Texas Defender Service, a legal group representing Hood. "No one should be prosecuted for a parking ticket let alone for capital murder by the district attorney who has had a sexual affair with the judge handling the case."
Neither Holland nor O'Connell has been publicly disciplined by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct or the State Bar of Texas. Their relationship apparently was an open secret in Collin County legal circles.
In the legal wrangling to block Hood's execution, the former couple acknowledged under oath they had an intimate relationship.
The Supreme Court's ruling, rendered without comment, does not change a ruling earlier this year from a Texas appeals court, which ordered a new sentencing hearing for Hood, on a legal point unrelated to the judge-prosecutor affair.
Hood, 41, a former topless club bouncer, has insisted he is innocent in the 1989 fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at their home in Plano, Texas.