Clemency Sought for Veteran

Execution set for Feb. 22


Forty-two-year-old Timothy Wayne Adams was a military veteran and the father of two sons when in February 2002, after growing tensions with his estranged wife, an argument sent him over the edge toward suicide. Desperate and anxious, Adams planned to take his life along with that of his youngest son, 19-month-old Timothy Junior, or T.J. But after shooting and killing T.J., Adams was talked down from killing himself by his family and a Houston police negotiator, and turned himself in to police. Adams admitted responsibility for his son's death and pleaded guilty to the crime. Despite his family's wishes, the Harris County District Attorney's Office sought the death penalty, and after a 2003 sentencing hearing, Adams was handed a death sentence. Now, Adams' family – including his older son, Terell – along with friends, three of the jurors who heard the evidence against him, and 91 faith leaders are asking the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that Gov. Rick Perry commute Adams' sentence to life in prison.

Though Adams had never been in trouble with the law before that tragic day in early 2002, unless the BPP and then the governor intervene, it is almost certain that he will be executed on Feb. 22, exactly nine years after formal charges against him were filed.

Jurors Rebecca Hayes, Ngoc Duong, and Kathryn Starling each say they were not provided key information about Adams during the sentencing hearing that would have made a difference in the outcome. Moreover, Hayes and Duong told Adams' attorneys that they were leaning toward a life sentence but gave in to extreme pressure from other jurors who had decided Adams was coldhearted. It is now clear to both jurors that Adams' defense attorneys were ill-prepared for the hearing and failed to present compelling personal information about Adams – including that he came from a close-knit family, was a hard worker, and was very religious. "After the trial, I learned additional information that confirmed my conviction that Adams should not have been sentenced to death," Hayes said in a statement included in the clemency petition. "To this day, I do not believe that Timothy Adams deserves to die for his crime."

According to the petition [PDF], filed by lawyer Katherine Black from the Texas Defender Service, Adams' trial attorneys failed to call most of the witnesses available to testify about Adams' background and how he came to a mental breaking point as his marriage dissolved. Instead of calling members of Adams' family, including his then-teenage son, defense lawyers told the family that only one of them could testify on Adams' behalf, said Andrea Keilen, TDS' executive director. His lawyers also called "casual work acquaintances" and Adams' fellow jail inmates to testify on his behalf, instead of the numerous friends and military colleagues who were willing to do so. In fact, the choice of witnesses was one that prosecutors capitalized on during closing arguments, according to the clemency petition.

Keilen said an appeal claiming ineffective assistance of counsel was rejected, but it was filed before the jurors came forward. And Keilen says TDS is looking at whether there might be any final litigation to pursue before the execution date. Importantly, however, Keilen points out that Adams' case is exactly the sort that clemency was designed for: It "cries out for clemency," she said. Indeed, if the death penalty is meant to be a deterrent, then there's no reason to put Adams to death. "It is so purposeless," she said. "There's no one who will wake up on the 23rd and feel like justice was done."

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Timothy Wayne Adams, death penalty, Andrea Keilen, clemency, courts, Rick Perry, Board of Pardons and Paroles

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