Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Guest Entry from David in Tennessee!
2:21 PM Spelling edit. Sprocket
Still more twists and turns in the Christian-Newsom case.
At noon today, Knoxville time, Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, again ordered new trials for all four defendants in the Christian-Newsom torture-murder case. Knox County Deputy District Attorney General Leland Price has asked for Blackwood to step down from the case. He accuses the judge of judicial misconduct.
Price wrote: "The willful failure of this court to follow the Tennessee Supreme Court's guidance indicates this court has lost all semblance of fairness and impartiality. The court's clearly stated and predetermined position is that new trials will be granted regardless of any law, evidence or argument to the contrary."
Blackwood did not hold a hearing and ignored the recent ruling by the Tennessee State Supreme Court faulting his opinion.
Blackwood gave all four defendants new trials in December. He cited the misconduct of former Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over the original trials, as causing structural error, and Baumgartner's supposed inability to play the role of "13th juror." Blackwood says he cannot perform that role.
Baumgartner resigned the bench after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation revealed he was doctor shopping, buying pills from a probationer in his own court, and using his mistress who was also in his court to buy more pills.
The Tennessee Attorney General appealed three of those cases, while acknowledging the need for a new trial for Vanessa Coleman. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in May that actual proof of structural error must be shown before new trials can be granted. The state Supreme Court held that witness credibility must be addressed. If Blackwood decided he could not judge witness credibility from transcripts, he can grant new trials.
According to Price, Blackwood did not hold a hearing or allow the state to argue the importance of witness credibility. Blackwood also supposedly hears from one side but not from the other.
Price cited an email in which Blackwood writes about hearing "little birdies who put thoughts in my head." Price concluded: "It is difficult for any reasonable person to believe the state is receiving a fair hearing before an impartial judge when the judge is listening to 'little birdies' and 'rumors' at the same time."