Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christian-Newsom Trials Continue

~Channon Christian & Chris Newsom

Once again, the families and friends of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom arrived at a Knoxville courtroom on Tuesday, December 1 for what is the third of four trials they must suffer through. The current defendant is George “G” Thomas. Throughout the week, Thomas has been attentive, staring ahead or at the defense table, but showing no emotion.

What makes this trial different is there is no forensic evidence tying Thomas to the crimes. Thomas admits to being at the Chipman Street house and additional testimony will place him there at the time of the crimes. The strong DNA evidence in the first trials does not exist here.

As guest writer, David in Tennessee previously reported, the jury for this trial is from Chattanooga and has been sequestered for the duration of the trial.

Both David and I admit that the Cobbins and Davidson trials were difficult to watch and emotionally draining. Observing the Christian and Newsom families stoically enduring the horrific testimony about what was done to their children was almost unbearable.

Channon’s dad, Gary, rocks in his seat. His anger is palpable, visible, and painful to witness.

I’m not sure it can all be attributable to Gary, but throughout all of the trials, 3 very large officers face the spectators – backs to the bench – out of concern that someone may just explode and attempt to attack a defendant.

During opening statements, Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald told the jury that Thomas, by his own admission, knew co-defendants Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins were cooking up a carjacking. He also admitted to taking a ride in Christian's carjacked Toyota 4Runner.

So, even if “G” didn’t commit the actual rapes or murders he still, quite possibly faces the death penalty for having knowledge of the crimes being committed as he sat in the Chipman Street house, yet doing nothing to stop the crimes or notifying police.

Defense attorney Tom Dillard contends Thomas isn’t guilty of anything more than adopting a drug-induced, none-of-my-business attitude.

So, we have spent the week basically rehashing testimony we have heard. The atmosphere in the courtroom is nowhere near as tense as what we’ve experienced so far.

Having already heard most of the testimony, my mind begins to wander till it dawns on me (hopefully the jury hasn’t followed the case) that all of this testimony has to be presented so the jury fully understands how cruel and heinous these crimes were and that Thomas didn’t give a damn.

A few important things have happened this week:

Ethel Lynn Freeman was on the hot seat as the defense questioned her about inconsistencies in her testimony.

She has testified both for and against the prosecution. She has claimed to have seen Thomas walking down the street on January 7, 2007 and also claimed to have been stopped and asked for gas money by Channon on the night of January 6.

On Thursday, Freeman insisted she was totally sure of seeing Thomas, but now stated something a bit different regarding seeing Channon and Chris at the gas station.

"And in your mind you're not mistaken about seeing George Thomas before noon the following day, right," Dillard asked.

Freeman agreed.

"I knew George Thomas so I'm absolutely sure it was George Thomas," Freeman continued. "I didn't know Channon or Chris."

"Are you sure you saw them," Dillard asked.

"I'm sure they appeared to be the people that looked like Channon and Chris once I seen on the news, I said 'I saw them that night at Exxon'," Freeman replied.

When attorneys began to argue in open court about Freeman's testimony, Judge Richard Baumgartner sent the jury out of the courtroom.

The judge agreed to let the prosecution continue to redirect, but not before he admitted Freeman's credibilty was damaged.

"What's happened here is her credibility has been attacked with some regard and effectively so I might point out," Judge Baumgartner said.

As an aside, not a single person I have spoken to or comment I have read regarding Freeman’s testimony at any time she has testified, did anyone profess belief in her story.

On Friday, Detective Nevil Norman was called to the stand. This is what everyone has been waiting for! The jury heard the tapped police interrogation where Thomas described seeing Channon Christian and Chris Newsom in January 2007.

"Do you remember when "E" and "Slim" got out of the car and a white guy and a white girl with them and they had blindfolds over their eyes and their hands were tied,"

"Yeah, I remember seeing them,"

On tape, Thomas admitted to riding in Christian's stolen Toyota Four Runner, which he called a 'nice ride'.

After Thomas' taped interrogation was played on Friday, Norman continued to testify about what happened right after the conclusion of the tapped session. He says he was shocked by Thomas’ response when asked why he didn’t call for help.

"(Expletive) that white girl. She didn't mean anything to me you cops come into my neighborhood and kill us so why should I get involved in something that doesn't matter, that doesn't matter to me."

Realizing they had a problem, the prosecution quickly referred Detective Norman back to his memorandum to correct his testimony.

Norman said, "that doesn't matter to me", but his memorandum dated June 24, 2008 says Thomas ended with "it's none of my business”.

The defense immediately attacked Norman for waiting 17 months to share what Thomas allegedly said. They attempted to call into question Norman’s memory.

"And sitting here this morning during direct examination, you didn't quote it correctly did you," Thomas Dillard said.

"No, sir," Norman admitted.

Other witnesses included Jody Long who testified she drove Thomas, Vanessa Coleman and Letalvis Cobbins to Kentucky.

Natosha Hays talked about Thomas, Coleman, and Cobbins showing up at her front door in Lebanon, KY.

Hays said Coleman often stayed with her so she wasn’t concerned about their request to give them a place to sleep.

The end of the day saw the medical examiner, Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan taking the stand. She is extremely professional in her testimony even though it is so graphic.

Remember, during the Davidson trial, between her oral testimony and autopsy photos, the young intern from the District Attorney’s office actually fainted.

It has been reported that when Channon’s rape injury photos were shown one female jury began to cry and another turned her head away. Thomas showed no reaction to the photos.

I, not surprisingly, wept during the testimony – it gets no easier no matter how many times you have heard it. I cannot fathom the pain Channon and Chris’s family must experience each time!

The court was in session this morning, Saturday, for about and hour while DNA evidence was presented. At the conclusion, the prosecution rested.

Judge Baumgartner has indicated that Sunday should be a day off. And promised the jury they would be given the case on Monday for deliberation.

The defense indicated they will be submitting a motion for acquittal today for the judge’s review.

The defense has already indicated they will not offer proof on Monday, however the judge has given them the weekend to make their final decision.

Court resumes Monday at 9am for closing arguments.

Excellent print and video coverage of the trials can be found at


Tezi said...

Thanks donchais for the excellent reporting!

I read through "G's" interrogation, and it about gave me a migraine!

I think he is guilty of at least facilitating the rape and murder of both Channon and Chris. He also benefited by riding in Channon's 4-Runner.

He has a lot going for him because his DNA wasn't found on either Channon or Chris (although in Chris's case, the DNA was likely destroyed because his body was burned).

I don't think he's going to get out of prison any sooner than "E," the thug that got the good deal in the Federal car-jacking charges.

I honestly think that Vanessa Coleman is going to get the DP for her part in this heinous crime. I think that VC inflicted a number of the injuries to Channon out of her jealousy because Cobbins raped Channon.

Anonymous said...


Great report! There is something I would like to mention regarding George Thomas. Two of his fellow suspects (Cobbins and Vanessa Coleman) said in their police interviews that Thomas shot Chris Newsom. Cobbins, I believe, said that Davidson, Boyd, and Thomas took Chris to the railroad track.

However, the fact that other suspects implicated Thomas does not help the prosecution. These statements are not admissable in Thomas' trial because under the 6th amendment to the Constitution Thomas has a right to confront witnesses against him. It would only happen if Coleman (for example) got a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against Thomas. Bottom line: the jury will not hear that any of the co-defendants implicated any other co-defendant, unless one of them makes a deal with the DA for a lesser sentence and agrees to testify against his/her co-defendants. This was explained to me by Walt Lewis, a former L.A. County Deputy DA, and the author of "The Criminal Justice Club."

The suspects, in their police interviews, mention seeing the victims brought to the house. There are a few comments about Channon Christian. There are none about what was done to Chris Newsom.

The medical examiner, Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan has testified as to what happened to Newsom.

First, Newsom was raped "with an object" an hour or so before he was killed. A dog leash (found near Chris' body) was looped around his neck and he was led or dragged to a railroad track. Newsom was naked from the waist down and his hands were bound.

The bottoms of Chris' feet were caked with mud because he was barefoot. His socks were jammed in his mouth as a gag and a sweatshirt was over his face.

Upon reaching the railroad track, Chris was shot first in the back, hitting the spine, then in the shoulder. He wasn't killed until the third shot, in the head. The killers inflicted as much pain on Chris Newsom as they could.

Several hours later, Newsom's body was set on fire. This destroyed the DNA evidence. Because of this, we will never know who raped him.

David From TN

Anonymous said...

Excellent reporting. I have followed this story from the beginning because this could have happened to our children and it just hits home. One day they are in love and on a date.. anticipating the date.. painstakingly making sure you look good, dressed well, hair done. Excited. In the blink of an eye you are captive and tortured and suffer a painful, degrading death. All of these people are pure animals and should fry. This trial scares me though.

I thought that if a group of people say went and invaded a home and killed the people inside, that no matter who actually shot the gun, they were ALL still guilty of the same offense.

So how can this be any different? Instead of invading the home, they were carjacked and taken to the home of the assailant. Tortured and murdered. I am confused as to why the defense is calling for a mistrial and how its ok for Thomas not to have said anything about this heinous crime although he was there. (And we all know he participated, possibly the one that raped and shot Chris).

This did not happen in a small time frame. It went on for hours, even days (as far as Channon). So how could he NOT be involved??

donchais said...

Tezi –
The fact that all of the gang was there is guilt enough for me!

David –
I have read about the finger pointing that took place after the arrests. Did Thomas shoot Chris Newsom? I have no idea. I also, having read the police interviews, think they all lied their butts off! Did Thomas really just smoke dope and not participate? I have reasonable doubt about that!

As for the 6th amendment and being able to face your accuser, the answer is correct. However, I go back to the Julie Jensen murder. The defense wanted a note she wrote just before she was murdered, thrown out. The note said she was afraid of her husband and if she was found dead, he did it. It made it to the State Supreme Court that ruled it could be used as evidence – essentially allowing the victim to point the finger at the accused from the grave!

As we have talked, what was done to these beautiful, vibrant people is beyond horrendous.

Anon –
They are all guilty! The defense – no matter how untenable to us – is doing what the defense does. Calling for a mistrial and claiming their client was only guilty of a nonchalant attitude. I wouldn’t have wanted to be appointed as defense for any of these animals. Seriously, in none of the trials have the attorneys had much to work with!

Anonymous said...

Anoymous, I agree when a gang commits a crime they are all equally responsible....its called criminal responsibility. The defense is trying to hide behind the law that does not requirer a citizen to actively stop a crime or even call for help. The difference is that citizen is not participating in the crime. You can bet the defense will do a lot of smoke and mirrors tomorrow during closing.
I've got to say that I can see why CA is in so much financial trouble. Compare how the courts do business there and then watch Tenn....months to try a case compared to weeks.

September moo