GUEST ENTRY FROM DAVID IN TENNESSEE!
The Davidson Sentencing Hearing by David In Tennessee
On Friday morning, June 11, I went to the courthouse in Knoxville, Tennessee for the sentencing hearing for Lemaricus Davidson, the convicted ringleader in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Davidson was convicted of the murders on October 28, 2009. The jury sentenced him to death after the penalty phase two days later. This hearing is for the sentence on the remaining charges. Here is my account of the trial of Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, and an outline of the case.
Around 10:30 pm on the night of January 6, 2007, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were abducted from the Washington Ridge apartments. They were taken to a house at 2316 Chipman Street. There, they were raped and murdered. The couple died after hours of agonizing torture. Chris Newsom was dragged by a dog leash around his neck to a railroad track. He was naked from the waist down and his hands were tied behind his back. Chris' face was wrapped in a sweatshirt and his mouth was gagged with his own socks. His bare feet were bound. He had been raped with "an object" as well as by unknown males. At the tracks, Newsom was shot three times. The killers inflicted as much pain as possible. His body was set of fire, which destroyed the DNA evidence and made it impossible to identify which of the killers raped him.
When Chris Newsom was found, his mother wanted to see the body. The police would not let her. Mary Newsom put her arms around the body bag.
Channon Christian's body was found in a trash can in the kitchen of Davidson's house. The medical examiner testified that Channon's body was "crammed" in five large trash bags. She was "hog-tied." Davidson's palm print was found on a bag. Channon had a plastic bag over her head and her eyes were open. Her body indicated that she was raped by an object causing blunt trauma. DNA evidence showed that she was raped by Lemaricus Davidson anally and vaginally. Semen from Davidson's half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, was found in her mouth. Her vaginal area had been beaten bloody. Channon Christian died of "lack of oxygen" in the trash can.
Here is my account of the death sentence handed down by the jury in Lemaricus Davidson's trial last October. The defense tactic in this trial was to claim that the victims came voluntarily to Davidson's house to buy drugs. In addition, it was claimed that Channon had "consensual sex" with Davidson. The defense attorneys were doing what their client wanted as Davidson likes to be in control. The prosecution was able to show that the victims had no prior contact with the suspects. Davidson had told a completely different story to the police when first captured.
Davidson left his fingerprint on an envelope in Channon's abandoned Toyota 4Runner. Without this print, which traced Davidson through the AFIS database, the killers might have gotten clean away with it. In addition, when captured, Davidson was wearing Chris Newsom's shoes.
Although I was aware that the sentencing hearing would begin at 11am, I entered Judge Baumgartner's courtroom before 9am. The judge arrived at 9:07 to take care of the day's docket. It was mostly probation hearings. The probationers would stand before the judge beside their attorneys with their hands clasped behind their backs and a humble expression. Some had probation continued. One man's ended and the judge told him to "behave himself." There were some prisoners in jailhouse stripes who had hearings on court dates. The judge sometimes chewed on a Snickers bar. At 10:05, the judge stopped proceedings and went to smoke in the area designated.
At 10:20, someone comes in and sets up a TV camera. Another camera comes in at 10:40. By 11:00, there are 3 TV cameras. There is a break before the hearing begins. Outside the courtroom, I speak briefly with Hugh Newsom, Chris' father. A member of the DA's office comes by and tells Mr. Newsom that he can let loose this time in his victim impact statement.
The mood in the courtroom is relaxed, although Gary Christian is somewhat wound up as usual. Davidson is brought into the courtroom at 11:12. He wears an outfit with TDOC Maximum Security on the back. His nickname is "Slim," which he no longer is. To me, he appears to be glad to get out of his cell on death row and make the trip. Davidson is still directing his attorneys. Davidson now has the goatee he had shaved off for the trial in which he wore a sweatshirt similar to the Menendez brothers. At 11:16, the judge takes the bench. About a dozen deputy sheriffs watch the audience. Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald details Davidson's prior offenses. There are a lot of them, as his criminal career started in 1994 at age 13 with carjacking and home invasion.
My impression of Davidson is that he still thinks he will get out of the death sentence. Former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, Walt Lewis, in his book "The Criminal Justice Club," wrote that sociopath criminals are always optimistic.
The defense attorneys contest everything in the style Casey Anthony's team is using. The judge munches on Snickers while the defense argues against consecutive sentences. This goes on until 11:40 when the judge calls a break. During the break, Mr. Newsom is standing beside me. I say regarding the defense lawyers, "Still wasting time." Mr. Newsom replies, "They get paid by the hour." This hearing was supposed to take an hour. Davidson's attorneys, David Eldridge and Doug Trant, made it last almost 3 hours.
At 12:01, the victim impact statements begin with Deena Christian, Channon's mother going first. They are the most powerful I have ever heard. Denna looks straight at him and calls Davidson an animal. Davidson stares back. He is stoic at first but looks defiant as the statements go on.
Gary Christian tells that he dreams of he and his son "giving you a lil' East Texas justice." Referring to the defense tactics in the trial, Gary says anyone who speaks against his daughter "is my enemy." Gary says he will do "everything in my power to have that needle stuck in you as soon as possible." He also said he intended to live to see it. Gary ended his statement by saying, "You rot in hell." When leaving the stand, Gary paused and looked straight at Davidson. For a moment, it looked like he would jump him, but he returned to his seat.
Chris' sister takes the stand and quotes scripture. Her father comes next. Defense attorney Doug Trant objects to Hugh Newsom bringing up Davidson's criminal past. This angers victim's parents. Mary Newsom then says, "Lemaricus Davidson, you are a hateful, evil person."
Judge Baumgartner then handed down the sentences. He sentenced Davidson to 80 years on various charges, including especially aggravated robbery. especially aggravated kidnapping and especially aggravated rape. The defense attorneys argued every charge, mostly concerning consecutive versus concurrent sentences.
The judge ordered the 80 years to be served consecutively to the death penalties. In a move that the judge said was probably unprecedented, he ordered the death sentences to be consecutive.
"This is one of the most incredibly outrageous, cruel, and inhumane cases this court has ever seen," Baumgartner said. "How people can engage in this type of activity is just unexplainable. There really is no sentence great enough to punish you for the conduct you have been convicted of."
The judge took into account that Davidson had numerous chances to straighten himself out. At age 16, an affluent white family took him in. They testified for him at the penalty phase of Davidson's trial. They gave him a car and he played on the sports teams at their private school. Davidson still went back to a life of crime. The judge finally said, "For you I have no mercy."
It is safe to say that Davidson is as bad a criminal as has been seen since Charles Manson. Incidentally, the defense asked for a hearing in February 2011 to argue for a new trial. In March 2011, Davidson will be brought back to Knoxville to be tried for robbing a Pizza Hut the the day after leaving his house with Channon Christian's body inside.
For this piece, in addition to my notes, I used WATE reporter Hanna Kim's twitter report, WATE, the Knoxville News Sentinel archives along with Donchais's blog, Calls For Justice.