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Did a judge-prosecutor romance taint Texas murder trial?

Sept. 8 hearing is set on allegations of a secret affair. Defendant faces execution Sept. 10.

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The lawyer for a death-row inmate says he is trying to break a "conspiracy of silence" in Texas over whether the district attorney and the judge who presided over his client's 1990 capital murder trial were having a secret romantic relationship.

The inmate, Charles Dean Hood, is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

A Texas judge has ordered a hearing into the issue on Monday morning. The judge has also ordered the former judge and former district attorney to be prepared to answer questions under oath about their alleged affair and potentially surrender any documentary evidence of a relationship.

The unusual twists and turns in the Hood case are attracting national attention and adding fuel to an already-heated debate over capital punishment in Texas.

Mr. Hood's lawyer, Gregory Wiercioch, has been trying for months to persuade the Texas judiciary to investigate the alleged secret relationship. He says former Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Thomas O'Connell may believe that their private relationship did not taint Hood's trial. But, he says, it should not be up to a judge and prosecutor to secretly decide such an issue – particularly when the defendant was on trial for his life.

"No attorney knowing [of this relationship] would have allowed her to stay on and preside over this trial," Mr. Wiercioch says. "I wouldn't want her presiding over a parking ticket, let alone a capital murder trial."


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