Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Christian-Newsom Torture Murders: Judge Blackwood Refuses to Step Down From Retrials


Judge Refuses To Step Down From Christian-Newsom Retrials
David In Tennessee

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on Monday declined to recuse himself from the retrials of the individuals convicted in the torture-murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. The crimes took place in January of 2007 in Knoxville, Tennessee. No end of the legal proceedings is in sight.

According to WBIR, Knoxville's NBC affiliate, "Blackwood's decision was swift and without explanation."

Knox News reported, Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price made what a defense attorney called an "unrelenting attack" on Judge Blackwood's fitness to preside over the case

Last December Blackwood ordered new trials for the four defendants. This resulted from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe which revealed former Judge Baumgartner was buying drugs from probationers in his own court while presiding over the Christian-Newsom trials. Baumgartner was forced to resign from the bench and is now facing trial in federal court.

The state appealed and the Tennessee Supreme Court narrowed the grounds for new trials but left the door open for Blackwood to opine that he could not act as "13th juror." Blackwood has indicated he might uphold the verdicts in the first two trials because there was overwhelming DNA evidence against those two defendants, Letalvis Cobbins and Lemaricus Davidson.

The third defendant, George Thomas, has asked for a retrial on the original date in October. Blackwood has yet to rule on the matter. The state does not contest the ruling for a new trial regarding the fourth defendant, Vanessa Coleman. Baumgartner's impairment was caught on camera during Coleman's trial.

In an unusual move, Price personally attacked Blackwood . He argued Blackwood was so upset by Baumgartner's  conduct that he ruled for new trials without considering the state's argument that Baumgartner gave the defendants a fair trial.

Thomas' defense attorney, Robert Lillard, said the prosecutors were "not used to losing." Dillard noted Blackwood had granted new trials in two other cases formerly handled by Baumgartner and the state had not asked for recusal in those.

WBIR interviewed the victims' parents.

From the WBIR article and video:
"I cannot, I will not let that man sit on my daughter's trials without a war," said Gary Christian, Channon Christian's father.
"This is 283 times we've been here, standing right here," said Hugh Newsom, father of Chris Newsom. "It'll be six years in January of next year. Right now, what do we have?"
"Our kids need the justice, that's what we promised them we would do for them, and it's just been a rough road, and it seems like it's getting rougher, taking a toll on these families. Every single day we think of our kids and hope that they will get the justice that they deserve," Mary Newsom said. "It's just hard to keep coming here over and over again and not accomplishing anything, not getting done what we want to happen. It's depressing, it makes you feel bad when you leave, nothing seems to go your way."

Prosecutors will now discuss the issue with the state attorney general to decide whether to appeal directly to the appellate court.

Also, Cobbins asked the judge to remove his attorney, Kim Parton from his case. This will likely happen. Parton was all smiles. She will be glad to leave Cobbins.

The only thing that looks likely at the moment is that Vanessa Coleman's case will be retried as scheduled this fall.