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May 9, 2014

Appeal still pending in death penalty case

GREENVILLE — A Commerce man is still facing death by lethal injection, after being convicted of capital murder for killing of one of the city’s code enforcement officers almost nine years ago.

In March, Adam Kelly Ward lost an appeal of his conviction which was filed with the United States Court of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit, according to Hunt County Assistant District Attorney Keli Aiken.

“He lost his federal writ,” Aiken said, noting that capital murder defendants are allowed to file both a writ of habeas corpus and a formal appeal with the federal court. “The federal writ was denied.”

In the writ, Ward contended his 2007 conviction and death sentence were unconstitutional because he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel, was not tried by an impartial jury, and is severely mentally ill.

The court reviewed the case and in a 63-page opinion denied the writ in a unanimous ruling, also noting Ward failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.

Ward’s defense counsel has since filed the formal appeal with the court. A ruling was pending as of Wednesday.

Aiken, who is not directly involved with Ward’s federal appeals, which are under the jurisdiction of the United States Attorney’s Office, said if the formal appeal before the United States Court of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit fails, then Ward would have the right to petition the United States Supreme Court for Writ of Certiorari, which is a document asking the Supreme Court to review the decision of a lower court.

“But the chances of that are one in a billion,” Aiken said.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in a February 2010 ruling, also denied an appeal raised by Ward, who was convicted of capital murder involving the shooting death of Michael “Pee Wee” Walker.

Walker was working as a code enforcement officer for the City of Commerce when shortly after 10 a.m. on June 13, 2005, he was taking photos of alleged code violations at the home where Ward lived on Caddo Street. The two engaged in a verbal altercation, which ended when Ward shot Walker as many as nine times with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

In order to have been convicted of capital murder, the prosecution had to show Ward knowingly and intentionally either obstructed Walker’s ability to do his job or retaliated against Walker for doing his job as a public servant, while in the course of committing the killing.

Defense attorneys attempted to show Ward may have been psychotic and suffering from paranoid delusions at the time of the shooting.

Ward was found mentally competent to stand trial in a separate hearing which occurred even as a jury was being impaneled to consider guilt or innocence on the capital murder charge.

Ward’s appeal alleged the trial court judge improperly limited evidence of his mental impairment and questioned the legality of the death penalty in Texas.

But Judge Michael E. Keasler, in delivering the unanimous ruling of the court, denied the claims raised by Ward.

Ward does not currently have an execution date scheduled.

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