Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Christian-Newsom Bills Pass Tennessee House and Senate


Christian-Newsome Bills Pass Tennessee House and Senate
The Tennessee State Senate on Thursday, February 20, passed the two bills that I previously mentioned in my last entry. They were designed to help crime victims and their families from being further victimized in the courts.

The parents of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom spoke in favor of the bills before the Tennessee State Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in February. 

Christian and Newsom were carjacked, tortured, and murdered in 2007. The defendants were found guilty, but because Judge Richard Baumgartner was guilty of using illegal drugs during the trials, retrials were ordered for two of the defendants. 

Baumgartner had verbally accepted the verdicts, but did not sign the form acting as 13th Juror upholding the jury's decision before being forced to resign from the bench.

Senate Bill 1796, The Chris Newsom Act, creates a presumption that the presiding judge presumably has completed his duties upon accepting the verdict of the jury. 

Senate Bill 1797, The Channon Christian Act, restricts bringing into evidence "presumptions or false information that are related to the victim that is totally unrelated to the crime."
On March 27, 2014, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed the two bills unanimously. When the bills passed, members of the legislature gave a standing ovation. 

The Channon Christian and Chris Newsom acts will go to the governor's desk for signature. Governor Haslam has said he supports both measures. 

The torture-murders of Christian and Newsom took place in the home of Lemaricus Davidson, who was convicted of both murders and sentenced to death. The other defendants, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, and Vanessa Coleman were convicted and sentenced to life without parole, life with the possibility of parole, and 35 years. Thomas and Coleman were tried a second time because of the 13th Juror rule. Davidson and Cobbins were not retried because of DNA evidence pointing to their guilt. 

A few weeks ago, Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield, who covered the story, tweeted that she doesn't think the Channon Christian Act was constitutional. 

She may be right. The courts give a defendant a lot of leeway in defending themselves. 

I emailed Satterfield several months ago and asked how her proposed book on the Christian-Newsom case was coming along. She never replied. I have emailed her several times over the years and previously she always got back to me. 

Two weeks ago I emailed her again with the same question. No answer. I wonder if Jamie Satterfield has given up on writing the book. I check her twitter feed daily and she never refers to it. I hope I'm wrong as this is nothing but speculation on my part. 

There is no news on the proposed film on the case. Gail Witt, who was making the film, recently died of cancer. The Facebook page, "Forever Changed," has reported that the film is completed and is still in the editing stage.

David in TN