JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Death row inmate Howard Hawk Willis’s defense team is working to prove that their client’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was not upheld in his original case.
This comes from his prior conviction where he represented himself in court.
“In this case, Mr. Willis did not have an attorney in his murder, capital murder trial where he was facing execution by the state,” said attorney Joshua Hedrick. “And that put him at a significant disadvantage.”
In 2010, Willis was sentenced to death for the 2002 murders of Adam and Samantha Chrismer, two teenagers from Georgia. Their bodies were found in a storage unit in Johnson City.
Willis went through nine different lawyers before the court decided to no longer appoint lawyers to him, forcing him to represent himself. Even with this, Willis had an “elbow attorney” that provided legal counsel during the trial.
“I mean it’s like saying we’re going to take your quarterback and we’re going to tie his hands behind their back and then we’re going to say ‘well, we lost the game,'” said Hedrick. “Well sure because he’s at a significant disadvantage.”
Witnesses brought to the stand have expressed the relationship between Willis and his past attorneys.
Former attorney Jim Bowman testified Monday about how Willis made it difficult for him to do his job and would insist Bowman take another strategy other than the one he wanted to talk about.
Hedrick says citizens should still have a right to voice their opinion about their representation.
“If they have a complaint, especially about a lawyer, they should be entitled to raise it,” said Hedrick. “We should not be in a situation where we’re chilling or reducing a citizen’s right to say, ‘excuse me, I don’t feel like I am being treated properly by my government.'”
Willis’s defense team anticipates the proceedings to wrap up on Wednesday.