Friday, May 25, 2012

Tennessee Supreme Court Stops Overturn of Christian-Newsom Case Convictions

The four defendants.


Tennessee Supreme Court Stops Overturn of Christian-Newsom Case Convictions

On Thursday, the Tennessee Supreme Court halted Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood's decision to overturn convictions in the Christian-Newsom torture-murders, turning back his ruling that former Judge Richard Baumgartner's conduct outside court was so bad that it affected the verdicts and also directing him to take a closer look at his own ability to serve as an independent "13th juror."

Judge Blackwood is being asked to give more reason for the convictions to be overturned than he had previously. It appears that if he cannot, the verdicts for three of the defendants, Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, and George Thomas, will stand. Davidson received a death sentence, Cobbins and Thomas life without parole.

Knox County prosecutors did not contest the need for a new trial in Vanessa Coleman's case. Baumgartner appeared intoxicated during the reading of the verdict in Coleman's trial in May 2010. The former judge has said he was under the influence of Xanax at the time.

The justices said Blackwood was too hasty in finding that Baumgartner's conduct inside the courtroom was bad enough to throw out the verdicts. There was no proof Baumgartner's trial decisions denied justice for Cobbins, Davidson, and Thomas.

I attended three days of Vanessa Coleman's trial. Judge Baumgartner  seemed tired. Once I saw him fall asleep. Sometimes he would suddenly call a break and head straight for the smoking area. He WAS in charge, however. I saw the live stream of the other three trials and he never seemed impaired. The defense did not question his decisions at the time.

It is my impression that Judge Baumgartner DID act as "13th juror" in the first three trials. He certainly commented at length in the sentencing hearings for these three defendants. I attended the 2010 sentencing hearings for Davidson and Coleman.

The evidence was overwhelming. There was no hint of impropriety by law enforcement. There was no prosecutorial misconduct. Baumgartner went out of his way to get jury pools fair to the defendants. The best defense attorneys in Knoxville were appointed to represent the defendants.

The victims, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, were both tortured for hours, raped and murdered. A former Los Angeles County Deputy DA, who is an email correspondent of mine, told me it was about the worst murder case he had heard of since the Manson killings.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has finally brought some common sense to this case.

 The victim's parents react to the Supreme Court Ruling.


Anonymous said...


NancyB said...

What wonderful news!! Thanks, David. The relief of these parents must be palpable.

I truly hope that in Coleman's re-trial that an intelligent jury is struck this time. The previous jury was, imo, a pitiful excuse of what a jury of your peers is meant to be. Is a 2nd jury bound to not exceed the limits of what the 1st incompetent jury decided on? Or is the 2nd jury free to come to their own decision/verdict?

Anonymous said...

I just read up on this story, and I AM HORRIFIED!!! How could someone do what was done to these poor victims. I just burst out crying. Unbelievable!!! Each deserves a sentence much, much, much worse than prison. What a horrible way to die!! Just breaks my heart. Lord have mercy!!! Whew!!!

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, if you can would you give me some insights as to why Vanessa Coleman is getting a new trial? Was her sentence too lengthy based on her role in the killings? I am familiar with the case, but I am NOT understanding why she's getting a new trial. Were the jurors in some type of misconduct violation?

MTkris said...

This case brought me to my knees, emotionally. I thought the suffering this young pair experienced was even more horrific than the Manson murders. And for what? Whatever "bad" home life these killers endured is no excuse. From a personal standpoint, we all have choices to make based on our life experiences; how we choose to cope+learn from them is key + shapes our character. Kudos to a Judge+ his stamina for correcting a grave error via a legal lens.

Anonymous said...

The so-called ringleader, Lemaricus Davidson, had one opportunity after another to straighten himself out. When a teen, a wealthy family took him in. He was able to attend a private school and play on the sports teams. The University of Tennnessee football coach noticed him as a possible recruit. Davidson had a car to drive. Despite this, he went back to a life of crime, even after receiving job opportunities upon being paroled from prison in 2006.

As for Cobbins, his sister had the same upbringing and graduated from college, becoming a teacher.

Thomas had no criminal record and told authorities he had a fine childhood.

The female defendant, Coleman, came from a middle-class, two-parent family. She had no prior record.

David In TN

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous May 26 6:15 PM,

Vanessa Coleman is getting a new trial because the Tennessee Attorney General's Office acknowledges Baumgartner was impaired during her first trial. For example, the judge fell asleep during trial and slurred his words at times.

There was no indication of impairment during the first three trials.

David In TN