Attorneys seek more time to file motions for Willis

Becky Campbell • Feb 8, 2012 at 11:41 PM

A deadline for Howard Hawk Willis’ attorneys to file additional amendments in his bid for a new trial passed Wednesday, with a request asking for more time because of an attorney’s medical issue.

Willis’ lead attorney, James Simmons, had a medical issue that required surgery in January and he won’t be back to work for several weeks.

Simmons filed a motions asking Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood for an additional 60 days to file any amendments to Willis’ motion for a new trial.

Willis was convicted in 2009 on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Adam and Samantha Chrismer. Their bodies were located in a downtown Johnson City rented storage unit in October 2002. The teen couple from Georgia befriended Willis there and traveled with him to Johnson City in October 2002.

A jury sentenced Willis to death for the murders.

In December, Blackwood granted the defense’s request for an extension because Willis’ attorneys had just located an additional 20 boxes of material from the case.

According to the motion filed last week asking for more time, Simmons was tasked with reviewing that material when he needed surgery last month.

After that court appearance, co-counsel Patrick McNalley said while there are many reasons to request a new trial, “fundamentally, the idea of an individual who is not a lawyer representing himself in a death penalty case is unfair.”

As of late Wednesday afternoon, there was no written response to the motion from Blackwood and no amendments had been filed.

If Blackwood does grant the extra time, it also would push back the state’s March 23 deadline to respond to the filings.

In the meantime, Willis is on death row at the Riverbend prison in Nashville.

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