Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Christian-Newsom Torture-Murder Trial on TruTV


On Monday, November 9, starting at 9 am ET, Tru TV's In Session will show the taped replay of the August trial of Letalvis Cobbins for the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Here is my first article outlining the case. It has an account of the Cobbins trial.
This is my summary of the trial of Lemaricus Davidson, who was the ringleader in this horrific crime. He was convicted and sentenced to death. It was the first death sentence handed down in Knox County since 1997.

A few days ago, a juror in the Davidson trial posted an account of the jury deliberations in a Knoxville-based sports forum. He tells how the jury analyzed the evidence and arrived at the guilty verdict and the death sentence in the sentencing phase. Here is the link.

This week after next, Tru TV's In Session will move from New York to Atlanta. There will be new anchors except for former host Vinnie Politan, who is returning. Beth Karas will remain as a correspondent. The Cobbins trial will be covered next week by the usual hosts.
David From Tennessee

Thank you so much David, for keeping T&T readers up-to-date on the defendants trials in the Christian-Newsom murders. You coverage of these cases has been much appreciated. Sprocket.


Karen said...

Bless you, David, for the heads-up on the coverage- I'll be taping that one, and absorbing what I can as it goes. I'm pleased they're doing it, but surprised, too, because how can they adequately convey the horrific details of this one? This was no ordinary rape/murder(s)... and I just might have to throw something at the screen if Jamie Floyd takes her usual position on everything.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've been waiting to see how Jamie Floyd would "Best Defense" this one. I do give credit to Tru TV for covering at least one of these trials. Aside from 3-4 very short segments back in 2007, this is the first national TV exposure the Christian-Newsom case has received.

David From TN

ritanita said...

David, thanks for the update. I will be tuning in in InSession for this trial.

Also, thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...

I watched In Session's 3-day coverage of the taped replay of the August trial of Letalvis Cobbins for the murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Overall, it was well done. I found that the live stream without commercials and commentators puts you "there" more than a Court TV/Tru TV broadcast.

Ashleigh Banfield said on her facebook page that this was the most difficult trial she ever covered. She said "effing" a couple of times and referred to the suspects as "animals." I think she apologized to animals though.

Jack Ford said that he had defended several death penalty cases "for various reasons," but "would have turned this one down."

Both Ashleigh Banfield and Jack Ford handled telephone interviews with the parents of the victims with sensitivity.

The verdict was announced during Jami Floyd's show on Wednesday. Both of her guest professed shock that Cobbins received life without parole instead of a death sentence. One of the guests, a defense attorney, said that it should have been death.

A question if I may. Did anyone hear any of the hosts tell the audience that the jury was picked from Davidson County (Nashville) instead of Knox County? I don't think they did. This is why Cobbins didn't receive a death sentence. Last month, his half-brother, Lemaricus Davidson, received a death sentence from a Knox County jury.

Davidson was the ringleader in the opinion of law enforcement and everyone who has studied the case. He caused it to happen in my opinion. The others were glad to join in on all available evidence.

In this case you can't show one trial and then stop. The Davidson trial and the two scheduled to follow are part of the entire story.

David From TN

Anonymous said...

First of all, as a lifelong East Tennessee resident, I'd like to thank you for covering this trial. I think I speak for the vast majority of E.T. residents in saying that we were collectively robbed of two beautiful, wonderful individuals in ways that a parent should never have to imagine possible.
For most of us, Channon and Chris were introduced to us before we were ever allowed to see their full potential. As a community, I believe we have acted in a unified manner to help these families stay strong; because, all we can offer to the families is our unshakeable support. We've watched in terror as more details unfold; and we cry for families and friends of two young people we will never be blessed to know other than the details of their heartbreaking and horrific deaths. We cannot offer anything to these families other than our undying support.
I know a lot of us have wondered why Channon and Chris have been all but ignored by major media outlets. But that, as a general concern, has fallen by the wayside in terms of unanswered questions. I believe most of us just want to see justice prevail for these two individuals and their families.

Regarding your question, Davidson's jury was a local jury from Knox County--at his insistence. And his half-brother, Letalvius Cobbins' jury was selected by a Davidson County jury pool. There have been various reasons as to why each individual has chosen to request their individual juries. But I believe neither expected to have their sentences come back and read by Judge Baumgartner as quickly as he did. Or with the sentence that they expected.

Regardless, we will continue to stand up for one another. And we will continue to fight for the good names of these two individuals.

Karen said...

I watched the TruTV broadcasts, too, as well as watching the video clips shown on the Knoxville TV websites. Question to anyone who can answer: Why, when "Worm" was testifying as to what Cobbins told him was this OK but when Sutton testified she was not allowed to say what Cobbins or others said to her as that was hearsay. I kinda, sorta thought I finally really understood something about hearsay rules, and now I am completely confused. "Worm" is allowed to testify about what he heard said, and Sutton is not- it's hearsay. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

During these two trials, protocol seemed to change minute by minute, case by case. And a GREAT MAJORITY of the changes seemed unfair and INCREDIBLY biased, favoring the defense. Often a question would arise and before Judge B would allow any type of response the jury would be shuffled out of the courtroom and Judge B would almost instruct the witness as to what would be allowed to be said or not. The defense drug these kids' names through the mud in any way possible. I am confident in saying that as a whole, our region was equally disgusted by the way the victims' families were treated as if they were on trial for the murders. Their families and friends are so strong to sit and be able to maintain their composure for as long as they have, and as long as they will continue to require.

I'm sorry, I got off course for a moment. There have been a lot of questions regarding Daphne's role in these trials and her role as a witness. I believe his reasoning was because he did not want ANYTHING that could prove to be irrelevant to be discussed before the jury. Judge B seemed to not explain why he chose certain subjects as hearsay, irrelevant, etc, but I sincerely believe it was because he was attempting to keep order within the courtroom, and keep the trial moving.

It was very disheartening during this trial to watch the defense drag these kids' names through the mud. I thought (more than once) that Davidson was going to end up getting LWoP if we were lucky. And it didn't seem fair that before Cobbins' sentence was handed to him picture after picture of Cobbins' childhood was presented on a huge projector screen; but pictures of Channon and Chris were not allowed to be shown (other than autopsy photos or articles of evidence). Cobbins' jury was never shown how beautiful these individuals were. They only saw what these animals had done to them. But Cobbins' attorney stressed that he knew Cobbins was a monster, but he asked that the jury spare his life.
Davidson's painted the victims as drug addicted partiers (though tox results showed otherwise) who went to the house ready, willing and able...almost deserving.
Judge B also would not allow any discussion of Davidson's prior convictions (stemming from another carjacking case). At any possibility of something being exposed, Judge B would call for a break, send the jury out, explain what was allowed to be said and bring the jury back in.

I apologize again, Karen, I veered off course again. Basically, Judge B seemed to pick and choose what he would allow. And sometimes it made ZERO sense why he picked what he did. But I honestly want to believe that it was because he wanted to make sure that there was no room for error. I believe he wanted to make sure there was no ammunition for a mistrial. Sometimes it seemed that Judge B was more concerned with having a case that returned a DP sentencing than making sure that justice prevailed. But he knows how long this next phase of the appeals process will be. And Judge B genuinely wanted to make sure that all i's were dotted and t's were crossed. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason, but that is the best reason I can come up with.

Anonymous said...

The judge ruled one way in the Cobbins trial and another in the Davidson trial. In each case, he was favoring the defendant. In the Cobbins trial, Judge B allowed Miss Lawson (I believe) to testfy to Davidson pulling a gun on her. In Davidson's trial, the judge did not allow it. Judge B was going by the rules in each case.

The way for a judge to not be reversed on appeal is to rule in favor of the defense. This accounts for Judge B's actions in these trials.

A book to read on the subject of the criminal justice system is "The Criminal Justice Club," by Walt Lewis, who spent over 30 years as a deputy DA in Los Angeles County ( Mr. Lewis tells why judges rule in favor of the defense on page 302.

It would be a good thing if this book was on sale in Knoxville book stores. I have learned a lot from it. Walt Lewis clearly outlines the difference between the role of the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

David From TN

Karen said...

Thanks, David, for the explanation and to Kristen for what you perceived as well. But I'm still confused since I was only referring to the Cobbins case as presented both on the TruTV and the Knoxville TV source (not the second case)- so it's the same judge involved, both with the testimony of "Worm" and the testimony of Sutton. "Worm" makes his statement about what he was told- that's OK; Sutton makes her statement about what she was told and that's hearsay. HUH? They are both testifying (or trying to) as to what they were told by the defendant- Why would he rule so differently; the testimony was pretty similar and made similar points, actually.

Anonymous said...

As Kristen writes, the main tactic of Davidson's attorneys was to claim that Channon and Chris came to the house to buy drugs. If this wasn't enough, they said that Channon had "consensual sex" with Davidson.

I too, was afraid that some of the jurors might buy this, causing Davidson to get at most LWOP, and maybe even a not guilty on some of the charges. The parents of the victims had to listen to the smearing of their children.

The link I provided of the juror's account of deliberations showed the jury totally rejected the defense story. He didn't even mention it.

The jury asked the judge to let them watch Davidson's police interview again in which he claimed to have never seen the victims before that night. He also said his DNA would not be on Channon, which it was. After watching an hour of the tape, the jury told Judge Baumgartner they had seen enough. They soon reached a guilty verdict on all the main counts, and a death sentence two days later.

The attempt by the defense attorneys to paint Channon and Chris as druggies who brought about their own deaths failed. Small comfort, but it is unlikely this tactic will be repeated in the next two trials.

David From Tennessee