Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Christian-Newsom Torture Murder Case Update

 Christopher Newsom, Channon Christian
Murdered January 2007

February 7, 2019

T&T is grateful to have guest contributor David in Tennessee provide an update on the Christian- Newsom case. Sprocket.

Guest Entry by David in Tennessee
I've been following major trials going back to Manson and Patty Hearst. The Christian-Newsom torture-murders are distinguished by the sheer horror, length of time, convoluted events, twists and turns. details the horrific events. In January 2007, Channon Christian, 21, and boyfriend Christopher Newsom were abducted, tortured, raped (both of them), and killed in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Channon Christian's SUV was abandoned by the killers after wiping it down. However, a fingerprint was found on an envelope in the car. The AFIS database linked the print to one Lemaricus Davidson, with an address in Knoxville. When the police arrived, they found Channon Christian's body stuffed in a garbage can. 

Eventually five suspects were arrested. Four were tried in Knox County. One, Eric Boyd, was tried and convicted in Federal Court. More on Boyd presently. 

The four tried in state court were convicted. The "ringleader," Davidson, was sentenced to death. His half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, to LWOP (life without parole). George Thomas was sentenced to life with parole after 50 years. The lone female, Vanessa Coleman, to 35 years. Thomas and Coleman had two trials. Why? Judge Richard Baumgartner was doing drugs and having sex with a woman who was a probationer in his court. The other defendants didn't get new trials due to rock-solid DNA evidence against them. 

In April 2018, reports a Knox County grand jury indicted Eric Boyd, who had long been suspected as one of the perpetrators. 

"The grand jury returned a 36-count presentment March 20 against Boyd, 46, including charges of first-degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape in the January 2007 case."

Authorities previously thought they didn't have enough evidence to charge Boyd. There wasn't DNA from Boyd (at the time) on the victims and he was crafty enough not to admit being in the death house, unlike the others. 

Boyd did give a lot of details in his police interrogation, but claimed he heard them from Davidson. Boyd was convicted in Federal Court of hiding Davidson and sentenced to 18 years. 

Christopher Newsom's parents had pushed for Boyd's prosecution, whom they believed raped and murdered their son. 

"Two volunteer sleuths -Tom Hyman and Kevin Cowans- have helped the Newsoms piece together evidence to present to Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen." 

The Knox County DAG has declined to say what new evidence resulted in the grand jury indictment. 

According to a story in June 2018, Cobbins and Thomas implicated Boyd in their interrogations, but those statements can't be used as evidence against him. The U.S Supreme Court ruled defendants "have the right to confront their accusers via the witness stand, not through unchallenged statements of co-defendants."

The witness list against Boyd indicates his own words will be used against him, something all suspects are told. Several corrections officers and investigators are on the witness list. 

Last week reported, Lemaricus Davidson, "ringleader" of the Christian-Newsom murders, was in Knoxville for a hearing requesting a new trial. 

One of the oddities of the whole case is Davidson and his lawyers insisting on a Knox County jury. In all the other trials, a jury was brought in from elsewhere in Tennessee. Judge Baumgartner in open court pleaded with them to have a jury outside of Knox County. He sighed when the defense lawyers still insisted on it.

Eventually, Davidson was convicted and sentenced to death. Supposedly, the defense can't use the Knox County jury as an issue for appeal. It sounds like they are doing just that.

Why did they call for a local jury? The answer is the defense talked themselves into believing 12 impartial jurors couldn't be found. And defense attorney Doug Trant suggested in testimony at the hearing, hoped not to. 

Trant said: "I told (Davidson) if we were not able to seat a jury, he could not be convicted."

The defense attorneys hoped jury selection would be "interminable" and the prosecution might offer Davidson a plea deal on a reduced charge. The District Attorney General's office had offered the defense a guilty plea to life without parole. Davidson said no, declaring he preferred death to life in prison.

After being convicted and sentenced to death, Davidson regretted his decision. 

Trant said: "I remember when he got the death sentence, he cried. He said it was one thing to anticipate a death sentence and another to actually get it."

The other defense attorney, David Eldridge, complained about the "level of publicity." 

The defense also said it was common knowledge in the legal community that Judge Baumgartner was a heavy user of painkillers. 

Davidson's conviction was nearly overturned because of Baumgartner's drug use on the bench, but the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled there was no "structural error." The defense is trying again. 

Most likely, they won't succeed, but with this case, you never know.

Eric Boyd's trial is currently set for August 2019.