Texas Court Stops Execution Set for Wednesday

A convicted killer won a reprieve Tuesday, one day before his scheduled execution, after an appeals court said it would reconsider its earlier dismissal of a challenge over jury instructions at his murder trial.

In granting the reprieve to Charles Dean Hood, the Texas Court of Appeals cited developments in the law regarding jury nullification.

The court however dismissed his attorney's claims that Hood was denied a fair trial because of what would be a legally unethical relationship between the judge and prosecutor.

The reprieve came almost simultaneously as Hood's lawyers sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry in which they said retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell "admitted under oath that they had an intimate sexual relationship for many years." The attorneys previously asked Perry for a 30-day reprieve for Hood.

The attorneys interviewed Holland on Tuesday, a day after O'Connell underwent similar questioning under oath.

"The intimate sexual relationship between the judge and the district attorney began several years prior to the trial of Mr. Hood," lawyer Greg Wiercioch said in his letter to the governor re-emphasizing his petition for a reprieve.

"While Mr. O'Connell and Judge Holland have different recollections as to when the affair ceased containing an intimate sexual component, there is no doubt that the relationship was sexual in the years immediately leading up to the time that Judge Holland had jurisdiction over the case."

Wiercioch said the pair confirmed they kept the relationship secret.

"She never disclosed it to a single litigant or lawyer who appeared before her, and she never recused herself from hearing a single case because of her affair with the elected district attorney," the lawyer wrote. "Similarly, Mr. O'Connell never disclosed the romantic relationship to any of his adversaries nor did he recuse himself or his office from prosecuting a single case because of his affair with Judge Holland."

Hood was convicted of killing a man and woman in the Dallas suburb of Plano in 1989.