Mr. Hood’s execution did not take place last night, but not because the Texas courts recognized the seriousness of Mr. Hood’s judicial ethics argument. Rather, the prison had the legal authority to execute Mr. Hood only until midnight, and the legal skirmishes prevented the execution from taking place in time.
I wish I could say that I’m surprised that the Texas courts have failed to address Mr. Hood’s allegations that his judge secretly slept with the prosecutor during Mr. Hood’s trial. But I can’t.
Our country’s criminal justice system regularly produces disturbing law, particularly in death penalty cases. Consider that we have a line of cases that turns on how long a public defender can sleep through a trial before the proceedings are considered to be unconstitutional. (You have to sleep through quite a bit.) We have prosecutors frequently and willfully concealing exculpatory evidence from defense counsel, and we have a disciplinary system unwilling to punish prosecutors for doing so. We have public defenders and, more disturbingly, capital defender systems that are so woefully underfunded (see here and here) that lawyers can’t even conduct a basic investigation into serious felony cases. Judges will even jail public defenders if they aren’t ready to go to trial within hours of being assigned to handle a case. And we have television reporters who question the motives of criminal defense attorneys for protecting a client’s confidences, but those reporters fail to question why prosecutors and juries would have convicted innocent men.
So as disturbing as it is to discover that Mr. Hood’s judge was sleeping with the prosecutor in Mr. Hood’s case and as disturbing as it is to discover that the Texas courts (and the Texas governor) have so far been unwilling to do anything about it, I can’t say that I’m surprised. If you are, just dig a little deeper into the Wonderland of capital punishment and you’ll see just how deep this rabbit hole goes.