Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s docket in East Tennessee is filling up.
In addition to being appointed to oversee Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris’ criminal case, he also was assigned to hear Joe Crumley’s case. The former district attorney general for the 1st Judicial District faces reckless endangerment, reckless driving and evading arrest charges that stem from a September driving incident in Jonesborough.
Blackwood will be in Jonesborough Dec. 8 to hear a motion for a new trial filed by attorneys appointed to represent Howard Hawk Willis as well as hold the first hearing in Crumley’s case.
Willis was convicted in 2010 of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Adam and Samantha Chrismer. He was sentenced to death for both killings.
Willis, who handled his criminal trial on his own, is now represented by James Simmons, an attorney from Hendersonville, and Patrick McNally, an attorney in Nashville.
The attorneys filed a 22-page motion earlier this month detailing for Blackwood errors they say Blackwood and prosecutors made in Willis’ case.
Many of the judicial errors go back to the years when Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown had the case.
He eventually stepped away after Willis filed a federal lawsuit against Brown, claiming the judge violated several of Willis’ constitutional rights and accused Brown of “grandstanding.”
No action was ever taken on that filing.
Still, it was enough to get Brown off the case.
Now, Willis’ attorneys say Brown made multiple errors associated with the death penalty double homicide case.
But the errors don’t stop with Brown. The attorneys also attack Blackwood’s handling of Willis’ case in pre-trial hearings and the trial itself.
One error Willis claims is that both judges refused to omit a recorded conversation between him and his ex-wife, Wilda Willis, which investigators used as a statement even though Willis refused to give a statement.
As for prosecutors mistakes, Willis’ attorneys say that in closing arguments, “the prosecutor” repeatedly told the jury that Willis was “cold,” and had “coldness in his voice” when talking about the victims.
Simmons and McNally argue in their motion that all the cumulative errors in Willis’ case demand a new trial.
Willis is incarcerated on death row in Riverbend Maximum Security prison. He will be transported to Jonesborough for the Dec. 8 hearing.