Tennessee District Attorney General Bill Gibson has worked behind the scenes to get a lighter sentence for a murderer, making the family of victim Lillian Kelley fearful, The Tennessean reports. In letters between Gibson and killer Christopher Adams two years after his convition, Gibson gave legal advice, encouragement, and religious counsel and talked to Adams like a friend, even though Gibson was prosecuting Adams’ case. He sent the letters to Adams without telling Adams’ attorney. He sent some while Adams was negotiating a plea bargain; he sent others after the plea, while Adams was trying to win a do-over of his case and an even shorter sentence.
The letters are unusual and could be ruled unethical and illegal. Attorneys’ ethical rules prevent lawyers from secretly talking to other lawyers’ clients. Gibson undercut efforts by his own staff to get a longer sentence, not a shorter one, for Adams. “I had good intentions in all of this but did not exercise good judgment,” Gibson told The Tennessean. “I will face this matter, myself trusting in God, and life will go on.” Gibson could lose his license to practice law after 16 years as top prosecutor in a rural Middle Tennessee area. He’s also the subject of a criminal probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Some lawyers fear that similar communications may have tainted other cases tried by Gibson.