21 June 2008

Romance and Reprieve

A death-penalty case in Texas is playing with my head these days, as such cases often do.

Charles Hood was scheduled to die Tuesday, June 17, 2008, for two murders, pursuant to a sentence imposed in 1990.

The victims were an unmarried couple, Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace. Hood had been living with them, his bloody footprints were found in their house, and he was found driving Williamson's Cadillac in Indiana some time thereafter.

Anyway: Hood's most recent efforts at securing for himself a new trial turned on allegations that the judge (Verla Sue Holland) and the prosecutor at his trial (Tom O'Connell) were romantically involved.

The state's response has been that it is too late to raise that point, because rumors of the affair have been rampant for years. Inmates aren't supposed to be able to store up possible arguments, bringing them out of their sleeve at strategic points in order to string out their tenure on death row. The condemned are expected to be better behaved than that.

But is that what happened here? It seems to me that the defense counsel might have been culpable had they put forward a mere rumor as the basis for appeal. Only last month did they get anyone to sign an affidavit.

It seems to me reasonable under existing law for Hood's attorneys to expect the judge and DA themselves to make some sworn statement on the matter of what relationship, if any, existed between the two of them when Judge Hood was presiding over a life-or-death trial.

For now, Hood lives. The death warrant expired at the end of the day Tuesday, while lawyers on both sides were haggling and filing and re-filing. The clock just ran out.

How difficult would it have been for the state to get another death warrant? Could they have done so on Wednesday? I don't know.

But it didn't happen. The state's Governor has issued a 30-day reprieve.

I have no profundities to offer. The whole thing is just, as I say, messing with my head. Like ... wow. The judge and the prosecutor hooking up in chambers. Then acting all, "Your honor" here and "Mr. District Attorney" there in the courtroom.

The jury is the finder of fact, not the judge of course. Still, on contested issue of evidence attorneys appeal to the bench, and they ought to be able to do so with some confidence in an impartial bench. But of course this is all terribly naive of me. I'm an anarchist and should expect nothing.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.