A common misconception is that athletes and other high profile individuals get special treatment when accused of a crime. People may believe that the system favors the stars. In reality, it is the opposite. When a high profile individual is prosecuted and convicted, the prosecutors are giving each other high fives; when a nameless, faceless, low-level defendant is convicted of a crime, no one gets excited.
Sometimes it is the nature of the crime and not the defendant that makes the case high profile. For instance, heinous crimes, particularly against children, make headlines. Those headlines bring out child advocates and others who call for harsh sentences against the accused.
Similarly, murder crimes have a chance of becoming high profile when the the death penalty is a possible sentence. The reason for this is that in death penalty cases,those opposed to the death penalty often come to the trial to demonstrate. At the same time, those who condone using the death penalty counter the anti-death penalty protests with their own. The whole thing can quickly become a media circus.
Sometimes, however, a criminal case attains high profile status for reasons that are, by themselves, totally different. One such example is the Charles Dean Hood case. That case raised some very interesting questions.
Charles Dean Hood
Charles Dean Hood, or Dean Hood, as he was known, worked as a bouncer for a topless night club in Plano, Texas during the late 1980s. At the time, he lived with Ronald Williamson, who was the owner of the club, and Williamson’s girlfriend, Tracie Wallace, who worked as a dancer. One day in 1989, Hood killed both Williamson and Wallace and stole his car and numerous other valuables. Hood pawned numerous items and purchased many things with his credit card.
The day after the murder, the police arrested Hood in Indiana. The authorities returned Hood to Texas for trial. At trial, Tom O’Connell, the District Attorney, asked for the death penalty. Because it was a death penalty case, there was heightened security around the courthouse. Those opposing the death penalty flooded into Texas to make their case. In August of 1990, the court found Hood guilty. State District Judge Verela Sue Holland presided over the case.
After Hood’s conviction,someone leaked information that O’Connell, the prosecutor, and Judge Holland were involved in an extramarital affair. While it is unclear how long the relationship lasted, circumstantial evidence strongly suggests the two were involved. If so, the judge should have recused herself from hearing the trial. What is more, there are suggestions that Hood’s trial lawyer, David Haynes, knew of the affair but did not raise it at trial because Haynes feared that he may be jeopardizing his other clients who were slated to hear cases before Judge Holland.
A criminal defense lawyer should raise such issues at trial because it is possible, although not definitive, that such issues can affect a trial’s outcome.
If you have been accused of a crime, contact the law firm of Christopher Abel, a Dallas-area criminal defense lawyer.
(image courtesy of RJ Esquivias)