GUEST ENTRY FROM David In Tennessee!
UPDATE: Verdict came in for Thomas around 9:30 AM PT Guilty on all counts This is a sweep for the prosecution. Sprocket
May 13th, 2013
I arrived in the courtroom at 9 am on Monday, May 13, for the retrial of George Thomas for his part in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in January 2007.
Thomas was convicted on all counts in 2009, but the verdict was overturned because of the criminal behavior of former judge Richard Baumgartner. Judge Walter Kurtz ruled that Thomas had to be retried because he could not act as 13th juror without hearing the testimony.
Before opening statements, Judge Kurtz told the jury they would be general outlines of the respective cases. The prosecution opening by Deputy Attorney General for Knox County, Takisha Fitzgerald fit this description. The opening by defense attorney Stephen Ross Johnson went over an hour and was like a closing argument, rather than an opening.
The judge admonished Johnson toward the end, but allowed him to go on.
Throughout the trial, the defense attorneys have come on far stronger than in Thomas' first trial.
In her opening, Fitzgerald referred to what Thomas said to detective Nevil Norman as "F*** that girl, she don't mean nothing to me!" Johnson, however, gave Norman's full account: "F*** that white girl, she don't mean nothing to me!"
Johnson then accused the prosecutor of trying to "appeal to your emotions." Actually, the prosecutor played down the racial aspect of the statement, while Johnson emphasized it.
The defense attorney used a power point demonstration to attack criminal responsibility as it applied to Thomas. Again, much like in a closing argument.
I counted 14 people present who were friends and family of the victims. There were about 30 spectators on average on Monday. There were up to 40 at times on Tuesday in a courtroom that would hold well over a hundred people. On the other hand, everybody in Knoxville is aware of this case and trial.
On Tuesday morning I was in line waiting to go in and a man and woman in their twenties were behind me. They weren't sure they were at the right courtroom and asked a sheriff's deputy (you had to empty your pockets a second time to see the trial) "It's not that big one, is it?" The deputy answered, "Yes it is." They went in another courtroom.
Perhaps the key witness in Vanessa Coleman's trial was Xavier Jenkins, who worked at a waste treatment agency next to the Chipman Street house. Jenkins saw four black males in Channon Christian's Toyota 4Runner. The defense cross-examined him very aggressively but couldn't dent Jenkins" testimony.
In this trial, the defense asked how he could tell it was four black males, but Jenkins easily answered, saying in effect, as a black man myself I can tell.
The defense did not cross several of the witnesses, especially the fingerprint and DNA specialists. Neither were found belonging to Thomas and they were claiming Thomas was not involved with what happened to the victims.
The mothers of Channon and Chris testified as they have in six previous trials. The defense had no questions for them.
Throughout you heard the name Eric Boyd and many have wondered why Boyd was not charged. It appears he provided the "wheels" for the carjacking. The reason? Boyd was clever enough not to admit to being in the Chipman house.
Each of the other suspects were read Miranda warnings and told they did not have to speak to the police, but insisted on doing so without a lawyer. Each of them tried to blame it on the others. Their police interviews were vague and not informative anyway.
Whenever Thomas came into the courtroom from a holding cell (before the jury is brought in) he would have his hands clasped behind his back. There were no handcuffs on his hands.
Thomas had an air of complete indifference sitting at the defense table. He was the same way in police interviews played in court, with a sneering dismissive tone.
Daphne Sutton testified on Tuesday. Last November I wrote that she looked and dressed like a poor relation of the Kardashian sisters. This time Sutton was dressed in a plain fashion.
Daphne Sutton described George Thomas as being in the house just like the others. More people were in the courtroom during Sutton's testimony.
On cross, defense attorney Tom Dillard spent a fair amount of time on cross, but was not near as aggressive as Vanessa Coleman's attorney, Ted Lavitt.
After a cell phone expert testified, court was adjourned for Tuesday.
Speaking of cell phones, the prosecution was able to show that Lemaricus Davidson, the ringleader, allowed Thomas to use his cell phone to call Stacey Lawson, Thomas' girlfriend, back in Kentucky.
The inference is that Davidson would not allow someone to use his phone who was not involved in what was going on.
Because of family obligations, I had to go back home after Tuesday's session.
The prosecution finished their case on Wednesday. Thomas declined to testify and the defense rested without calling any witnesses. Thursday morning saw closing arguments. The jury was given the case Thursday afternoon.
David in TN