DALLAS (AP) — A Texas death row inmate whose conviction was complicated by revelations that his trial judge and the prosecutor had been involved in a romantic relationship has pleaded guilty and agreed to a life sentence to settle his case.
A new sentencing trial for Charles Dean Hood had been set for next week. But under the plea deal, Hood — who has insisted he was innocent — will not receive credit for the 23 years he spent on death row, the Dallas Morning News reported Friday (http://bit.ly/TUShT0 ).
The 43-year-old Hood entered his guilty plea on Jan. 31.
A former bouncer at a topless club, Hood was convicted for the 1989 fatal shootings of Tracie Lynn Wallace, 26, and her boyfriend, Ronald Williamson, 46, at their home in Plano, a Dallas suburb. He was arrested in Indiana while driving Williamson's $70,000 Cadillac, and his fingerprints were discovered at the murder scene. Hood said he had permission to drive the car and his fingerprints were at the house because he had been living there and doing odd jobs for Williamson.
The issue of the affair between the trial judge, Verla Sue Holland, and Tom O'Connell, the former district attorney in Collin County, was disclosed after Hood's attorneys successfully headed off his scheduled execution in 2008 on a separate legal issue.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had ordered a new punishment trial for Hood on a legal point unrelated to the once-secret romantic relationship. The same appeals court in a separate ruling had refused Hood's request for an entirely new trial because of the affair admission.
John Schomburger, first assistant district attorney in Collin County, told the newspaper that prosecutors felt "vindicated" by the guilty plea. He said their goal was "to see that he's never released from prison, and this plea deal is the best way to achieve that goal."
In an email to the newspaper, Wallace's sister Julie wrote, "I thank God that I am finally able to have closure."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com