Johnson City Press: Howard Hawk Willis' latest attorney leaving private practice, asks judge to relieve him from case
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Howard Hawk Willis' latest attorney leaving private practice, asks judge to relieve him from case

Becky Campbell • Jul 6, 2019 at 9:58 PM

The first attorney Howard Hawk Willis has seemed to have an amicable relationship with since being charged in a double murder in 2002 has asked to withdraw from the appellate case, but not because they aren’t getting along.

Willis, 66, is on death row for the murders of Adam and Samantha Chrismer, a teenage couple from Georgia whose bodies were found partially dismembered and stuffed into two large plastic totes that were located inside a storage unit in downtown Johnson City that Willis’ mother rented. The investigation began in October 2002 after Adam Chrismer’s severed head and hands were found in the lake near Winged Deer Park.

The case took eight years to get to trial after Willis had conflict after conflict with multiple attorneys appointed to represent him. In the end, he was forced to represent himself and was convicted and sentenced to death for the killings. Since then, Willis’ conviction has been upheld by the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals.

Throughout the case’s life, Willis has had a revolving door of attorneys before his 2010 trial — in which he ended up representing himself — and during the appeals process. Most recently has been represented by Mark Fulks and a Nashville lawyer, Paul Bruno, and the three appear to have a good working relationship.

Fulks filed a motion June 24 asking Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice to relieve him from the case and appoint another attorney, Sarah King, to assist Bruno with the appeal.

Fulks is ”leaving private practice to return to public service effective Aug. 1,” according to the motion. King has apparently already agreed to help Bruno with the case, and Willis has agreed to the change.

Also in the motion, attorneys asked for additional time for a post-conviction hearing, currently scheduled for Oct. 16, so King can have time to “review the trial court and appellate court records, interview witnesses, investigate the grounds for post-conviction relief, file and amended petition and prepare for the evidentiary hearing.”

Rice will hear the motion at a hearing Monday in Jonesborough. Willis had wanted to waive appearance at Monday’s hearing due to his health and the toll the trip takes on him when being transported to Jonesborough, but Rice has an order on file that demands Willis’ appearance due to the complexities of the case.

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