The state Supreme Court today rejected the latest appeal by a Fort Smith man
sentenced to die for stabbing his estranged wife to death on a city street.
The high court upheld Thomas Leo Springs’ capital murder conviction and death
sentence in the Jan. 21, 2005, slaying of Christina Springs, rejecting his
argument that he received ineffective counsel at his trial in Sebastian County
Christina Springs was riding in the front passenger seat of a car driven by her
sister when Thomas Springs rammed his vehicle into the car at a busy Fort Smith
intersection. Thomas Springs then got out of his vehicle, shattered the
passenger window of his sister-in-law’s car, began beating his wife’s face into
the dashboard, then went back to his car and retrieved a knife which he used to
stab his wife repeatedly.
Springs, 49, argued on appeal that his trial attorneys, Chief Public Defender
John Joplin and Cash Haaser, a deputy public defender, were ineffective
—They failed to interview his son and failed to call his son as a witness
during the penalty phase.
—They failed to object to “gross misstatements of the law of mitigation” made
by then-Prosecuting Attorney Steve Tabor during closing arguments.
—They failed to object to testimony that Springs had threatened a jailer while
—They failed to object to the introduction of written victim-impact statements.
—They failed to question prospective jurors about possible bias related to the
fact that Springs is black and his wife was white.
—They failed to explain properly Springs’ right to present unfavorable
testimony about his wife during the penalty phase, resulting in Springs
unknowingly waiving his right to present that evidence.
In its unanimous opinion today, the Supreme Court said Springs did not
establish a reasonable probability that the testimony of his son or a different
description of the law of mitigation would have resulted in a different
Regarding Springs’ other arguments, the court said Springs did not show that
his attorneys’ actions fell outside the bounds of reasonable professional
judgment. Springs supported many of his arguments with conclusory statements
instead of citing specific acts and omissions constituting ineffective counsel,
the court said.
“Conclusory statements cannot be the basis of post-conviction relief,” Justice
Donald Corbin wrote in the opinion.
The Supreme Court rejected a previous appeal by Springs of his conviction and
sentence in December 2006
(source: Booneville Democrat)