Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Christian-Newsom Torture Murder Case: Motion For A New Trial!

GUEST ENTRY from David In Tennessee!

The Christian-Newsom Torture Murder Case: Motion For a New Trial

In 2009, I wrote this article that outlines the case regarding the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in Knoxville Tennessee on January 6 and 7, 2007. Anyone new to the case would welcome reading it. The horrific torture inflicted on the victims and the controversies surrounding the case are included in this piece and the one I wrote about the verdict in the Letalvis Cobbins trial. Cobbins was the first of the four suspects to be tried. He was convicted of the murder of Channon Christian, but only facilitation of Christopher Newsom's. Cobbins received a sentence of life without parole.

Donchais and I wrote many articles on the Christian-Newsom murders that are archived at Trials & Tribulations.

Since the verdicts for all four defendants (each was tried separately), another of the twists and turns that have characterized this case took place earlier this year. In February it was announced that Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over all four trials, was under a criminal probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Baumgartner was secretly buying pills from a probationer in his own court.

On Thursday, June 9, a hearing concerning a motion for a new trial for Letalvis Cobbins was held in front of Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. Cobbins defense attorney, Kim Parton, refused to argue that Judge Baumgartner's addiction to prescription drugs influenced his trial rulings. Her client wanted this argument to be made.

Judge Blackwood rejected every issue Parton did make as grounds for a new trial. However, the judge said he will not issue a formal ruling until after she and attorneys for the other defendants have had time to review whether Baumgartner's addiction influenced the outcome of the respective cases.

Cobbins on Thursday made another complaint at the end of the hearing, one he had made last year at his sentencing hearing. He accused state prison officials and Knox County officers of beating him up. He said, "My face is still swollen and bruised from the beating I received this Sunday. I am asking that something be done to stop this abuse. I just want it on record."

Judge Blackwood responded, "It is noted on the record."

Channon Christian's mother, Deena, yelled out, "Did you see my daughter's face?"

Knox County Sheriff, Jimmy "J.J." Jones denied any assault.

"The truth is not in him," Jones said. "He is a lying murderer."

This report from the Knoxville NBC affiliate has a video including interviews with the parents of the victims, Hugh and Mary Newsom along with Gary and Deena Christian.

The next motion will be heard on September 8 for Lemaricus Davidson, who was sentenced to death. Cobbins will also be present for the final ruling on his motion for a new trial.

I was in the courtroom for three days of the Vanessa Coleman trial and the sentencing hearings for Davidson and Coleman. I saw Baumgartner fall asleep once during a defense cross-examination. The judge would call a break quite often. When he did, Judge Baumgartner would head straight for the smoking area.

My brother is an attorney and years ago sometimes appeared before Baumgartner. In those days, the judge would smoke on the bench during a trial. This was before the no-smoking rules in public places. Judge Baumgartner is just over 60 years old, but looks older.

My brother told me that the appellate courts would consider Baumgartner's rulings on their own merits. Walt Lewis, a former Deputy DA in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, told me that since Cobbins received a sentence of life without parole instead of death, the appellate courts are much more likely to let it stand. Mr. Lewis is the author of The Criminal Justice Club.

That said, we may not have seen the last trial in this case. Two unidentified semen specimens were found on Channon Chritian's undergarments. The DNA did not belong to any of the suspects or their known friends. The DNA databases aren't that extensive but are growing all the time. Will there be a DNA hit?

David in Tennessee

Thank you for the update on these cases David! I'm wondering if Tennessee would be willing to do a "familial" DNA search to see if they could obtain a hit on the two unidentified DNA samples. This is how the LAPD was able to capture Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., aka The Grim Sleeper, one of the most prolific serial killers ever caught in the Southwest. Sprocket.


Anonymous said...


Good question. I know Tennessee doesn't have familial DNA search at the moment. At the time of the Grim Sleeper's arrest, only California and Colorado did, to my knowledge.

Earlier this year, Virginia announced they would do familial searches. This was because of the kidnap-murder of Morgan Harrington. Other states are said to be considering it, but I haven't heard any news of Tennessee allowing familial DNA searches.

David In TN

Anonymous said...

David...I have followed this case with a heavy heart. To lose a child by any means is tragic but to know what Channon and Christopher went thru, I could never sleep well again. If you were aware of the judge's falling asleep in court, surely others within the court must have been aware that something was not right. To possibly have the hard work of the prosecutors go down the drain because of this judge is truly a shame. For these parents to have to sit through another trial(s) again facing the arrogance and no remorse from these monsters, I pray God gives them the strength. Thank you for the update.