Adam Kelly Ward, 33, was executed by lethal injection on 22 March 2016 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a city official who was on his property.
Ralph Ward and his son, Adam, lived in the city of Commerce, a town northeast of Dallas in Hunt County. The household was cited numerous times for failing to comply with the city's housing and zoning codes. At one time, a "demolish order" was issued on the Wards' home, but the Wards eventually agreed to comply with the codes governing their property. The violations continued, however, and the city mailed them a letter ordering them to clean up some "unsheltered storage" - a bureaucratic euphemism for junk - from their yard by 11 June 2005, or a case would be filed against them in municipal court.
On Monday, 13 June 2005, Michael Walker, 46, a code enforcement officer for the city of Commerce, went to the Ward property to record the continuing violation. His truck and shirt both identified him as a city employee. When he arrived at the property, Adam Ward, then 22, was washing his car in the driveway. Walker parked his truck and got out. He was unarmed and was carrying only a camera and cell phone.
Walker began walking around the perimeter of the property, taking pictures. At some point, Ward and Walker began arguing. Ward's father came outside and attempted to calm the men down. Ward then sprayed walker with the hose he was using to wash his car. Walker used his cell phone to call his office and request a police officer's assistance. According to Ralph, he continued talking to Walker, telling him, "We need to sit down and talk about this." When he saw that his son was no longer outside, he advised Walker that it might be "best if he left the property." He then ran to look for Ward. He testified that he believed Ward had a gun in his room, but he did not warn Walker about this.
Walker put his camera in the back of his truck and waited for the officer to arrive. Ward then ran out of the house, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, and fired at him. Walker tried to use his truck as cover, but Ward pursued him, chasing him around the truck at least twice, firing the gun again. Walker then ran toward the house. Ward followed him and shot him several times. Walker fell across the sidewalk, and Ward shot him again at close range. His father then took the gun from him, along with one empty magazine and one full one.
The medical examiner determined that Walker sustained nine gunshot wounds.
Ward confessed to the murder. He stated that the city of Commerce was after his family and that Walker and the former Code Enforcement Director, Fred Eaton, had "threatened to tear down our house." He said that while Walker was taking pictures, he and Walker argued about how Walker had parked his truck on the street. Walker then started walking up to him "showing attitude," so he sprayed him with the hose. He then became afraid of Walker, because "just the way he was walking up. He threatened to call the cops and have - press charges on me and all." He said he was in fear for his life because if he police came to arrest him, he "would probably end up dead." He got his gun for "self defense" and initially meant only to scare Walker, but then "emptied a magazine" at him. He confessed that he "overreacted" to the situation.
Ward stated in his confession that he had previously been beaten up by the local police, which is why he believed they would kill him if he were arrested again. No evidence was presented at his trial to confirm his claim that the police had beaten him, and his attorneys did not present a self-defense claim.
Under Texas law, a killing must include one or more aggravating factors to qualify as capital murder. In most cases, the aggravating factor is the concurrent commission or attempted commission of another felony such as burglary, robbery, rape, or kidnapping. The statute also includes "obstruction or retaliation" in the list of aggravating factors. This was the element of capital murder that the prosecution alleged against Ward. Section 36.06 of the Texas Penal Code, entitled "OBSTRUCTION OR RETALIATION," states that a person commits an offense if he illegally harms or threatens a public servant, witness, prospective witness, or informant to prevent or delay that person's service, or in retaliation for or on account of that person's service or status.
Ward's lawyers did not deny that Ward intentionally killed Walker. They also did not deny that he committed obstruction or retaliation, but they claimed that he was mentally impaired and did so without intent. Psychiatrist Heidi Vermette testified that, based on her interviews with Ward and his family, he suffered from a "psychotic disorder" that caused him to suffer from paranoid delusions that there was a conspiracy of people who were against him and trying to harm him. Other trial testimony showed that Ward's father, Ralph, who was characterized as a "hoarder," shared in these delusions, including a belief in the Illuminati - a secret organization of powerful people who conspire together to control society. One expert testified that Adam was "indoctrinated" with these beliefs by his father.
Two Commerce police officers testified that in 2006, after the murder, they were dispatched to the Wards' street to stand by while a city worker read meters. A city crew was also in the area working on a sewer line. The officers testified that Ralph Ward drove past the sewer workers, extended his hand out of the window in a gun-shaped gesture and simulated firing it at them.
Ralph Ward, who had a master's degree in engineering and a doctor of education degree, testified. He confirmed his interest in the Illuminati and his belief the head of code enforcement, the city council, and the school district were all connected in a plan to single out his house because of a lawsuit he had threatened to file against the school district.
Adam Ward had a previous conviction for assaulting a public servant when he was 18. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5 years' probation on deferred adjudication in July 2001. The case was dismissed two years later. He also had a record of aggression against students and fellow classmates in school. By the time of his graduation, he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, learning disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and was taking Depakote and lithium.
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