If you spent more than five minutes in Tennessee since 2011, you’re familiar with Holly Bobo. A young, vivacious nursing student from a small town in Henderson County, Holly was abducted almost three years ago. Now the worst fears of her friends and family have been confirmed.
Then last week, a turn of events: police arrested Zachary Adams, 29, charging him with aggravated kidnapping and murder. If he’s convicted, Adams could be put to death.
There are currently 76 people on death row in Tennessee. The oldest convict is 70, and the longest held convict has been there since 1978. In fact, before 2000, the last execution took place in 1960 – an almost 40 year hiatus. You could say we have an interesting history with the death penalty here in Tennessee, and we criminal defense attorneys in particular wrestle with our feelings about it every day.
Determining whether justice will prevail
What’s most interesting about this case from a lawyer’s point of view is not that the prosecution will be seeking the death penalty; it’s how anyone in Tennessee could think justice may be served. Right now, you’d be hard pressed to find a place in the Volunteer State that hasn’t heard of Holly Bobo, and soon everyone will know about Zachary Adams. Since the US Constitution guarantees everyone the right to a fair trial, we’re curious about just how the courts will go about guaranteeing that right for Adams.
Our interest is also piqued by Adams’ choice of representation. He’ll let the judge know next week whether or not he can afford a lawyer, or if he’ll use a public defender. Since every PD we know has caseloads up to the eyeballs, Adams may have a hard time getting a fair trial there, too.
We are heartbroken for the Holly Bobo and her family. But we’re also staunch believers in the Constitution. If Adams is guilty he will surely be punished in accordance with his crime. We just hope that the punishment meted out by the court of public opinion doesn’t lead to an unfair trial – an end which will surely lead to an appeal, and then maybe another, and then another….
We ask for peace for Holly and her family, so the healing can begin. But we also ask for what is right for Adams and, indeed, every man and woman going through the justice system here in Tennessee. It’s safe to assume that we’ll return to this topic, once the trial begins. Keep an eye out for further developments.