JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Even as he sits on death row, convicted double murderer Howard Hawk Willis continues to insist he did not kill teenage newlyweds Samantha and Adam Chrismer in 2002 and he says newly discovered evidence will secure him a new trial.
“You need, just once, to give me a chance to show you that I’m innocent, to prove I’m not guilty of this,” Willis said during one of many phone calls he made from Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville to the WJHL newsroom.
Since March, he’s called our newsroom at least two dozen times.
“Are you saying today on death row that you have a good case to prove you’re innocent?” we asked him.
“Absolutely,” he replied.
A jury found Willis guilty of murder in 2010. Prosecutors said not only did Willis kill the teens, he also dismembered their bodies and put them in plastic containers at a storage facility. However, Willis’ attorney says the jury and judge didn’t have the chance to hear newly discovered evidence that could have changed things.
Back in January, attorney Stephen Ross Johnson told the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals the newly discovered evidence includes a statement from Willis’ now-deceased mother who said she’d set Willis up for any crime she could and a recorded statement from his ex-wife that revealed Willis wasn’t with the victims at the time they disappeared. During the trial, Willis suggested his mother could have killed the teens.
“The issue of whether or not she was the shooter is something the jury could have considered or should’ve considered,” the attorney said.
During that January hearing, state prosecutors argued the new evidence wouldn’t have made a difference.
“There’s also no basis to say that it may lead to a different judgment here, not when we have a confession and when we have fingerprint evidence,” Jim Gaylord said.
The three-judge panel has yet to release its decision.
“What do you think the families of your two victims think about this?” we asked Willis regarding his efforts to secure a new trial.
“I don’t care what they think,” Willis replied.
“You don’t care what they think even though you were convicted of their double murder?”
“I’m not guilty of that,” Willis said.
Willis has also appealed his case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, citing 20 issues. The state’s top court heard his case in October and has yet to release a decision.
Willis had to represent himself at trial after he had multiple issues with his attorneys.
“They’re the ones who falsified and bullcrapped all this up,” Willis said. “The attorneys appointed did not do their jobs.”
Willis is convinced he will be back in Johnson City by the end of the year to fight his murder conviction.
“I want a new trial,” he said. “I’ve got video proof that I didn’t pick them kids up.”Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.