~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.
"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 WBIR.com.