An Oklahoma appeals court on Thursday overturned a conviction for first-degree murder due to a romantic relationship between the judge and a prosecutor involved in the case.
In a 3-2 ruling, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a new trial for defendant Robert Leon Hashagen III, who had been sentenced to life in prison following his 2021 conviction for first-degree murder. Hashagen’s defense attorneys filed an appeal after uncovering evidence of an undisclosed romantic relationship between the trial court judge, Timothy Henderson, and one of the prosecutors handling the case.
The majority opinion stated that “the undisclosed relationship violated Hashagen’s rights to a fair trial.”
Henderson resigned from his position in March 2021, following allegations of sexual misconduct raised by three female attorneys.
Although Henderson was never charged, he acknowledged engaging in consensual sexual relationships with two of the women involved.
During an evidentiary hearing in November 2021, Henderson defended the fairness of his rulings, stating that they were based on the evidence and facts presented by the attorneys.
Henderson had presided over several notable criminal trials, including that of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who received a life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of raping and sexually victimizing women while on duty in Oklahoma City.