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Willis ready to part ways with latest attorneys

DEE GOODIN • Mar 20, 2007 at 1:39 AM

JOHNSON CITY - The families of two murdered Georgia teenagers, one dismembered and the other mutilated more than four and one-half years ago, will now wait for their loved ones' accused killer to decide whether he will continue to seek the dismissal of his attorneys.

Howard Willis, a Johnson City native and a former resident of Chickamauga, Ga., is charged in the October 2002 deaths of Adam Chrismer, 17, and Samantha Leming, 16. Prosecutors maintain Willis killed the teenagers three days apart at his mother's former residence at 104 Brentwood Drive home.

On Monday afternoon, Willis was seated between his attorneys, T. Wood Smith of Greeneville and Gene Scott of Johnson City, both of whom he wants to fire. And the feeling is mutual. Scott filed a motion Thursday asking to remove himself and Smith from the case due to "irreconcilable conflict."

Scott told Judge Lynn Brown that his client had filed complaints with the Board of Professional Responsibility that contained untrue allegations.

It's not the first time Willis' honesty has been questioned. Erwin attorney Bill Lawson, lead counsel in the case before Smith, also accused Willis of lying when he withdrew.

In a previous court appearance, Brown had warned Willis if he could not work with Scott and Smith he would be representing himself. Smith is the third lead counsel on the case.

"You've about run out of lawyers," Brown said. "You've asked to have Mr. (Herb) Monsignor of Knoxville appointed. We have plenty of fine lawyers in East Tennessee. Jim Bowman has tried several murder cases and has one of the most remarkable records (of winning cases)."

Bowman and Stacy Street of Elizabethton were the first to part ways with Willis by mutual agreement.

"I suggest you have a prayer meeting with your lawyers," Brown told Willis on Monday.

"No, sir," Willis said loudly, resulting in courtroom deputies stepping closer to where Willis, wearing one of Scott's suits, was seated.

Brown has told Willis multiple times that representing himself would not be wise.

But the judge was more specific Monday when he told Willis, "You'll probably be found guilty and receive the death penalty. I've told you repeatedly how stupid it would be to represent yourself."

Brown then set Willis' next appearance for May 2 at 1:30 p.m.

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