The four defendants.
GUEST ENTRY BY DAVID IN TENNESSEE!
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.