Thursday, September 3, 2009

Verdict Reached in the Christian Newsom Murder Case

Guest Entry from David in Tennessee!

On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Levaltis Cobbins was found guilty of the murder of Channon Christian, Cobbins was found not guilty of the murder of Christopher Newsom, but guilty of the lesser charge of facilitating the murder of her boyfriend. Cobbins was also found guilty of 33 of the 38 lesser charges.
The next day, the penalty phase took place. Since Cobbins was only guilty of facilitation regarding Newsom, only Channon Christian's parents could give impact statements. A half-dozen of Cobbins' female relatives from Memphis told of his terrible childhood. It is interesting that several of them who had the same childhood went to college and made something of themselves.
At one point, a sister looked at the Christians and said, "I am so sorry about what happened to your daughter. I really am. Don't hate me." Channon's mother, a genteel Southern woman, silently mouthed the words, "I don't hate you."
The jury had three options in the penalty phase, death, life without parole, and life with parole. The jury quickly came back with a sentence of life without parole. They got on a bus and went back to Nashville. The Davidson County jury had been brought to Knoxville to sit in judgement.
This was a case were the defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without parole. It caused widespread outrage in Knoxville as the public thought that if any murders ever rated a death sentence, it was these. My feeling is that if the suspects had shot Channon and Chris dead in the parking lot, the sentence would have been accepted. The protest against the LWOP verdict is because of the horrible torture that was inflicted on the victims. It is NOT because the suspects are black and the victims white. There would be just as much anger if a gang of white criminals had done this.
A former prosecutor with 30 years experience told me that there is an upside to Cobbins receiving LWOP instead of a death sentence. A death verdict is often reversed if any reason can be found. This is unlikely to happen with a sentence of life without parole, especially in this case. From watching Cobbins during the stream of the trial, I am certain he thought he would beat the murder charge and walk out of prison some day. Cobbins is in for prison for the rest of his life. The sentence was more than he hoped for and better than it might have been.
The defendant in the second trial will be Lemaricus Davidson, the older half-brother of Levaltis Cobbins. During Cobbins' trial, his attorney blamed Davidson for sucking Cobbins into the brutal crime spree against two strangers. According to this theory, a violent Davidson frightened Cobbins into taking part. So did his female relatives, who said they were not surprised that Davidson would be involved in such a horrible crime. This was a crime in which the young couple were seized at gunpoint, held captive, sexually savaged, tortured and killed. The prosecution has always regarded Davidson as the ringleader.
This case has attracted more attention in East Tennessee than any in memory. A big reason is that Channon Christian and Chris Newsom seemed like anybody's kids out on a Saturday night date. The parents of the victims are everyday people who have worked hard all their lives. Channon's father sells Toyota's at a local dealership and arranged for her to have the 4Runner.
Judge Richard Baumgartner wants another jury outside of Knox County. Davidson, however, insists on a Knox County jury. The judge has tried several times to talk him out of it, to no avail. It may be that Davidson and his attorneys hope that it will be impossible to get an "impartial" jury from Knox County forcing a delay for perhaps years. Reluctantly, the judge authorized 900 summons to be mailed out to residents. On Tuesday, September 1, only 386 showed up to fill out an extensive questionnaire. Not everyone can be found. Some have moved or died. The people who came filled out the form.
When interrogated by the Knoxville police, Lemaricus Davidson claimed "I don't know nothin." He said that he was taking a nap and woke up to see the 4runner drive up to his house. Davidson said he saw the girl brought in but "not the dude." Davidson claimed to have told the girl "she wouldn't die." He said that he "went on my run selling dope." So Davidson claims that he wasn't present during the killings. When asked if his DNA would be on Channon Christian, Davidson answered, "No."
In the first trial, Cobbins blamed everything on Davidson. The second trial will see Davidson try to blame it on Cobbins. Of the two, Davidson is older and physically larger. DNA evidence implicated both Cobbins and Davidson in Christian's rapes. But there is far more of it when it comes to Davidson, meaning Davidson repeatedly raped Christian.
Davidson also left more of a forensic mark at two key crime scenes. His fingerprints were inside Christian's Toyota 4Runner, on Newsom's driver's license, on Christian's Blockbuster membership card and on the garbage bags in which a hog-tied Channon Christian was placed before she was left to die inside a trash can. It was also Davidson's house.
As in Cobbins' case, there is less physical evidence to directly link Davidson with Newsom's murder. However, evidence of similarities exist between striations on bullets used to kill Newsom and patterns left on bullets test-fired by police from a gun found on Davidson when he was arrested.
I will now recall the testimony of the Knox County Medical Examiner, Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan. The ME reported that Chris Newsom was repeatedly raped and then blindfolded, gagged, arms and feet bound and his head covered. Barefoot, he was either led or dragged to a set of railroad tracks. he was shot in the back of the head, the neck, and the back, and his body set on fire.
Channon Christian's death came after hours of sexual torture, the ME testified. Christian suffered horrific injuries to her vagina, anus, and mouth. She was not only raped but savaged with "an object," the doctor testified. She was beaten in the head, bleach was poured down her throat, and her body was scrubbed with the same solution. All of this was while Christian was alive, the forensic expert said. She was then "hog-tied," with curtains and strips of bedding, her face covered tightly with a small trash bag and her body placed inside five large trash bags before being placed inside a large trash can and covered with sheets. Christian died slowly, suffocating, the medical examiner said.
The killers loved every minute of it. If there is no delay, jury selection starts September 21.

Thank you very much David, for the update on this case. Sprocket.


Melissa said...

This case makes me cringe. Pure evil. I actually felt my mouth draw back while reading this. Tears.

CaliGirl9 said...

David, thanks for keeping us informed about this case. It's beyond horrible ...

LinZbee said...

Thank you David for your excellent report on such a horrific crime. This case has literally haunted me since I first read about it and I can't help but think about the terror and torture these two young people must have gone through. It is beyond comprehension. I couldn't even watch the trial online. This one has really gotten to me. How can human beings be so terribly cruel and heartless? I can't imagine the suffering their parents are going through.

Anonymous said...

Tonight, the Larry King show had a special on the Manson case. Linda Kasabian gave her first interview in decades. Vincent Bugliosi was on with her. Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, was on last and told in a dignified and convincing manner why she opposed parole for any of the Manson killers, no matter if they claim to be reformed.

Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were killed more brutally than the victims of the Manson gang. Even Manson didn't think of the things that were done to them.

Forty years from now, will the killers of Channon and Chris be asking to be let out of prison for "compassionate reasons?" Letalvis Cobbins and the others (assuming conviction) should not be released for the same reason that Tex Watson will not be.

David From TN