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Texas death-row inmate gets reprieve, but not because of alleged affair

A state appeals court halted his execution Tuesday in order to examine the judge's instructions to the jury.

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Lawyers for a death-row inmate in Texas have won a reprieve for their client less than a day before his scheduled execution – but not for the reason they'd most recently requested.

They had asked Texas officials to postpone the execution of Charles Dean Hood for 30 days to allow a complete investigation into allegations that the judge and prosecutor at Mr. Hood's 1990 capital murder trial were having a secret affair.

On Monday, a Texas judge ordered the former prosecutor, Thomas O'Connell, and former judge, Verla Sue Holland, to answer questions under oath about their alleged secret romance. On Tuesday evening, Gregory Wiercioch, one of Hood's lawyers, sent a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry urging him to halt the execution in light of admissions by the former judge and prosecutor "that they had an intimate sexual relationship for many years."

But in a surprise move also on Tuesday evening, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, ordered a halt to Hood's execution. The action was not related to the alleged secret romance. Instead, the court stopped the execution pending resolution of an appeal related to the fairness of instructions given to the jury during the sentencing phase of the Hood murder trial.

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