The Oklahoman

Convicted murderer seeks new trial because of sex scandal

- Nolan Clay The Oklahoman USA TODAY NETWORK

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered an evidentiar­y hearing after a convicted murderer complained his trial judge secretly “engaged in a sexual relationsh­ip” with a prosecutor in his case.

Robert Leon Hashagen III is seeking a new trial.

“It is no exaggerati­on to state that the very integrity of the judiciary in Oklahoma is at stake here,” his appellate attorney, James Lockard, argued in a legal brief.

“If a man can be convicted and sentenced to die in prison at a trial before a judge and prosecutor who were literally in bed together, then no citizen of Oklahoma can or should expect to get a fair trial in any Oklahoma court.”

A jury in February convicted Hashagen of felony murder in the commission of a burglary. The victim, Evelyn Goodall, 94, was killed in 2013. Oklahoma County District Judge Tim Henderson sentenced him March 4 to life in prison.

Later that month, Henderson abruptly resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct. Among his accusers is one of the assistant district attorneys who prosecuted Hashagen.

She told the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigat­ion the married judge was inappropri­ate with her multiple times between 2016 and 2018 in his chambers and other locations.

“She did not want to engage in anything Henderson did,” an OSBI agent wrote in a request for a search warrant. “But the longer the touching went on, the more trapped she felt — like it was too late to get out of it.”

The OSBI has sent hundreds of pages of its findings to a special prosecutor,

Jason Hicks, the district attorney for four counties in southweste­rn Oklahoma.

Hicks is expected to ask the state’s next multicount­y grand jury to decide if the former judge should be charged.

Henderson denies wrongdoing. His attorney, Tracy Schumacher, said Henderson had consensual relationsh­ips with two prosecutor­s.

In its order Monday, the appeals court remanded Hashagen’s case back to Oklahoma County District Court for an evidentiar­y hearing within 45 days.

“The allegation­s contained in the motion for new trial strike at the heart of an accused’s constituti­onal due process right to a fair trial before a fair tribunal,” the court said.

Who will conduct the hearing was not clear Tuesday.

In a concurrenc­e, Judge Gary Lumpkin of the Court of Criminal Appeals wrote any findings and legal conclusion­s from the evidentiar­y hearing “should include a determinat­ion of whether any of the allegation­s, if found to be true, had any effect on the trial.”

“This court is not vested with judicial office disciplina­ry power and must always look to the fairness of the trial in each particular case.”

Hashagen, 58, of Oklahoma City, maintains he is innocent, trial attorney Ben Munda said.

The defense attorney also said Henderson made “completely outrageous” decisions in the case in favor of the prosecutio­n. He pointed specifically to the judge allowing testimony about an incident dating back decades.

“He thought it was appropriat­e to let in evidence that we got in a fight with our girlfriend on a school bus when we were 18 years old as somehow relevant to whether we murdered an elderly stranger in our ... 50s,” Munda said.

The Court of Criminal Appeals will make the final decision on the new trial request after the evidentiar­y hearing is held at the lower court.

If his conviction is upheld, Hashagen would have to live to near the age of 90 to become eligible for parole.

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