Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Strange bedfellows

I've seen a lot of things in my years as a public defender, but I don't think I've ever before seen something like this: a group of 21 prosecutors and former judges filing an amicus brief on behalf of a defendant.  Charles Dean Hood was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1990.  Since then, rumors have run rampant that the prosecutor had engaged in a sexual relationship with the prosecutor, but Hood and his defense attorneys were never able to prove it until 2008.  Once they finally got the judge and the prosecutor to fess up, they asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to grant Hood a new trial.  Inexplicably, that court said, "No biggie.  Conviction stands."  Largely blaming Hood and his lawyers for not complaining earlier about the secret affair they couldn't prove until 2008.  So Hood's attorneys filed a cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is where the amicus brief comes in.

It would be like a dream to have prosecutors and former judges file a brief urging for a reversal in one of my cases.  Appellate courts are used to defense attorneys like me exclaiming just how prejudicial the errors were and that this client really, really needs a new trial.  They don't often get that kind of argument from prosecutors.  If that many prosecutors will publicly ask the United States Supreme Court to overturn a conviction, well then there's probably something seriously, and obviously, wrong with the conviction.


Anonymous said...

Incredible... For them to come out on behalf of a murder defendant speaks volumes about the situation. Didn't the prosecutor lie about the affair in open court? Where any ethics charges brought against the prosecutor and/or the judge?

S said...

My feeling is if that many prosecutors will publicly sign an amicus brief, loads more of them are privately agreeing the conviction is bad.

I do not know if there are any ethical complaints against either the judge or the prosecutor. I will have to investigate that.

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