The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stopped Wednesday's scheduled execution of a convicted killer whose attorneys questioned the fairness of his trial because of an alleged affair between the judge and prosecutor.
Charles Dean Hood was convicted of killing a man and woman in the Dallas suburb of Plano in 1989.
Attorneys interviewed retired Judge Verla Sue Holland on Tuesday, a day after former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell underwent similar questioning under oath.
Holland, who also is a former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge, was whisked into the courthouse out of the sight of reporters for a roughly two-hour session.
Holland's lawyer, Bill Boyd, would say afterward only that the deposition had been completed. O'Connell and attorneys for Hood also have not commented on the depositions.
Boyd said Monday that when Hood was tried, convicted and condemned for the shootings, nobody in the case had an improper relationship.
A fight over principle
Hood's attorneys for weeks had sought the retired judge and former prosecutor, who now is in private practice, after a former assistant district attorney in O'Connell's office raised the claim of an unethical affair in an affidavit.
State District Judge Greg Brewer, assigned to the case after another judge took himself out because of previous dealings with Holland's now-deceased ex-husband, agreed to the depositions Monday. Holland's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to move the case into the federal courts.
"Our fight is more over the principle than the actual damage to be done by a deposition," he said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had told Brewer he supported investigating the claims even if it means delaying Hood's execution.
Hood's attorneys asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal appeals court, to postpone Hood's punishment so they have more time to pursue their claims that judicial bias made Hood's 1990 trial unfair. In addition, Hood's lawyers have asked Gov. Rick Perry to grant a 30-day reprieve, which the governor has authority to do once.
Hood is a former bouncer at a topless club who was 20 when he was arrested in Indiana for the fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, an ex-dancer, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at Williamson's home in Plano in 1989.
Julie Wallace, whose sister was one of the two victims, characterized the deposition effort as "another delay tactic, if you ask me."
"It doesn't change the evidence," she said Tuesday. "His right to due process is what is in question, though I don't think it was. It is frustrating to say the least."
Hood has maintained his innocence. He was driving Williamson's $70,000 Cadillac at the time of his arrest. Evidence against him included his fingerprints at the murder scene. Hood contended his prints were at Williamson's home because he was living there and that he had permission to drive the car.