Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

March 29, 2007

Gibson hearing suspended after 16 hours of testimony

DA testifies four hours in effort to get license reinstated

13th Judicial District Attorney General William "Bill" Gibson sat on the witness stand for four hours Tuesday trying to convince a panel of his peers that his license to practice law should be reinstated.

The two-day hearing held at Gibson's request in front of a three-member panel representing the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (BPR) included about 16 hours of testimony — including 12 hours Tuesday that ended at 9 p.m. — with no indication on when, or what, the panel will recommend.

In fact, the panel, at the conclusion of the presentation of evidence from both sides, abruptly packed up their stuff and left without announcing when closing arguments would be heard, the deadline for filing written closing arguments, or when to expect a ruling.

Gibson's license suspension and the resulting ban from serving as chief prosecutor for the seven-county judicial district that includes Cumberland County came after ethics complaints were filed against him for a two-year letter correspondence with Christopher Adams.

Adams was identified as a prime suspect in the 2003 brutal murder of 79-year-old Lillian Kelley of Putnam County. Robbery was listed as a motive in the slaying during which the elderly woman was stabbed twice and her throat slit.

At issue was Gibson's conduct with Adams, which included the prosecutor offering legal counsel to the man his office was prosecuting without the knowledge of Adams' attorney and apparently behind the back of his own staff.

A series of 11 letters was exchanged over the course of two years and was made public after Cookeville attorney Phil Parsons was appointed to represent Adams in a post conviction relief petition. Adams showed the letters to Parsons, who in turn notified Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns of the correspondence.

Parsons then filed a complaint with the BPR followed by Burns' complaint with both stating they felt mandated by state law and a code of ethics to take the action.

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