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Murder Convict Gets New Trial Due to "Sexual Relationship" Between Judge and Prosecutor in Case
The judge presiding over convict Robert Hashagen's murder trial and a prosecutor in the case “were involved in an undisclosed, sexual relationship from April of 2016 through summer of 2018,” court records say.
An Oklahoma appeals court overturned a murder conviction Thursday based on evidence that the judge was having a sexual relationship with one of the prosecutors in the case.
Robert Leon Hashagen III was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in February 2021 for death of 94-year-old gardener and bird-watcher Evelyn Goodall, according to The Oklahoman.
Goodall died from blunt force trauma two days after being brutally beaten. She called 911, telling a dispatcher, “Hurry, hurry. I’m dying,” and, “Please send the police. Please hurry. I’m bleeding to death,” the newspaper reported.
In a 3-2 decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Hashagen’s murder conviction and ordered a new trial be held.
“He's now presumed innocent once again and he gets to start this journey over again,” Clay Curtis, Hashagen’s attorney, told ABC Oklahoma station KWTV.
Hashagen’s attorneys first appealed the conviction after evidence revealed an extramarital affair between judge Timothy Henderson and one of the prosecutors in the case, the Associated Press reported.
Court documents obtained by Law & Crime said that Henderson and an Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney identified as K.C. “were involved in an undisclosed, sexual relationship from April of 2016 through summer of 2018,” adding that the defense was unaware of the relationship during the murder trial.
“[District Court Judge Paul Hesse] went on to find that the circumstances of an undisclosed past or current sexual relationship between a prosecutor and a judge sufficiently raised ‘unconstitutional potential for bias,'” and that therefore the situation is cause to give Hashagen an opportunity for a fair and impartial trial.
“The only proposition the court ruled on today was the relationship between the prosecutor and the judge,” said Curtis, according to KWTV.
Henderson resigned in March of 2021 following sexual misconduct accusations from three female attorneys. Hagashen’s case is the only one to be reversed so far in Henderson’s abundant case list.
“Obviously there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people that appeared before Judge Henderson that did not know he had relationships with the DA's office,” Curtis said. “A lot of things about the nature of that relationship that we believe inherently affected the fairness of that trial.”
Curtis added: “It was a violation of due process and that relationship tainted the results of the trial, there was an unnecessary risk of bias.”
State investigators could not find substantial evidence of sexual misconduct and Henderson was not charged. He described the relationships with the woman as consensual.
“My rulings were fair and supported by the evidence and facts presented by the attorneys,” Henderson said at an evidentiary hearing in November of 2021, according to the AP.
Hagashen’s new trial date has yet to be scheduled.