Christian - Newsom Murder Trial - Defence Plays the Race Card
compiled by Lewis Loflin
Over two years have passed since what many believe was the racially motivated killing of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. The young couple was murdered, gang raped, and tortured after being car-jacked in January 2007. The victims were white, the gang accused in the crime (one has already been convicted) are black. To quote the AP "Christian was a 21-year-old University of Tennessee student and Newsom was her 23-year-old boyfriend. Police said the 2007 events that resulted in their deaths began as a carjacking."
What Coleman Said
D.A. reveals details of a proposed deal with murder suspect Vanessa Coleman. If she accepted, "she would have been expected to testify truthfully about the carjacking and murders of Chris Newsom and Channon Christian." It was "rejected orally" and no such offers were made to the other three thugs. Coleman was arrested in Kentucky in January 2007.
According to transcripts, audio recordings and ATF Special Agent Bernard Waggoner: "Coleman shortly before she testified in front of a grand jury on January 17, 2007." "Coleman told him she remembered seeing Lemaricus Davidson bring a blindfolded white female into the house on Chipman Street on Saturday January 6. "Coleman eventually told him (Waggoner) that she saw Davidson kill the girl. She described seeing him come up behind her and put his hand under her chin and 'snap her neck'." "Coleman admitted to seeing Davidson tie up the girl, drag her body into the livingroom, cover her with garbage bags, then stuff her into a garbage can. Coleman apparently told investigators Davidson said he need 'to take out the trash'. "Coleman also told him that George Thomas told her that he was ashamed of himself and then admitted to killing the white male."
Waggoner claimed Coleman "never used Christian's or Newsom's name, but described them as girl or male, or white female and white male" and "Coleman also remembered seeing Davidson and Thomas come in with bloody shirts before they put them in the washer the night Newsom was shot and killed." Ref. Yvette Martinez 2/27/2009 WBIR.com
"In a surprise move, one defendant asked a judge to throw out the murder charges against her! This morning, the lawyer for Latalvis Cobbins asked for immunity for Vanessa Coleman. She had already received immunity in federal court. If granted now, Coleman and Cobbins could both potentially receive leniency." Ref. Apr 17, 2009 WVLT
Trials delayed for 2 suspects in Christian - Newsom murders
According to WATE (May 28, 2009) in Knoxville Letalvis Cobbins and Vanessa Coleman, both facing the death penalty, have had their trials delayed. Cobbins' new trial date is set for August 12, 2009 so his attorney has more time to prepare the case. The original date was July 6. Coleman's trial was supposed to be August 10 in unknown as of June 1, 2009 as her attorneys try to get the murder charges thrown out.
All this evolves around the immunity deal so she (Coleman) can testify for Cobbins which the State has requested the judge deny. It seems that the rats know they are on a sinking ship and have turned on each other. Now this strange statement from WATE: "The state has asked the judge to deny the defense's request to rule out the death penalty for the suspects due it being racially motivated. The state says similar cases have been thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court and there's no proof anyone involved in the crime was racially motivated."
Let me understand what is going on here. Because they are black they are the victims because too many blacks get on death row. A gang of black racially murder a white couple, but that doesn't count because they are white?
Playing the Race Card
In a case where public officials have refused to press hate crime charges because the thugs are black, now the defence plays the race card to have the death penalty dropped against the alleged killers. To quote (May 22, 2009),
Defense attorneys for Lemaricus Davidson have signaled their intent to bring race into their legal battle to dismiss the death penalty as a possible sentence for their client...The motion states the percentage of white persons to black person in Tennessee is 80.4% to 16.9% and in the United States, 80% to 12.8% according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008. The motion includes supporting documentation to indicate that 34% of the people executed in the United States since 1976 (the modern era of the death penalty) have been black. It also notes that 41.6% of the nation's death row population is black.
An attorney (not connected with this case) Don Bosch says (according to the press) "in the mid 90's, Bosch said he was the first to use the motion in Knox County for one of his previous clients who is black. The victim was white...the extensive case law he gathered did prove a racial disadvantage for black defendants facing the death penalty. In his case, he negotiated a plea agreement that gave his client life in prison instead of capital punishment...the motion on racial disproportionality is appropriate for the case..." Overall the tactic is unsuccessful according to press reports.
To quote Jake Jost, WBIR.com on this issue:
"The only people eligible to be sentenced to death in the state of Tennessee are people convicted of first degree murder, with aggravating factors involved in that crime - such as murdering more than one person or killing a police officer. As a result, the most apt population to measure against the death sentence is the population of convicted murderers."
According to Jake "from 1998 to 2007 Tennessee juries convicted 353 white people of first degree murder and 413 black people of the same crime. During that same time period, Tennessee sent 16 white people to death row and 14 black people. That means Tennessee sends 4.5% of its white murderers to death row and 3.4% of its black murderers. The black post-conviction death sentence rate is thus about 3/4 what you would expect it to be if even with the white sentencing rate. If black defendants are facing unfair or disproportionate risk of receiving the death penalty in Tennessee, it is not happening between the conviction and sentencing phases of the trial--by the numbers, disparity would have to take place earlier in the trial process."
Also see Crime by Race in Tennessee
Other Legal Tactics
It seems clear even to defense attorneys there is little hope they overcome the mountains of confession and physical evidence against their clients as the rats turn on each other. They must get the evidence suppressed. They "are challenging the search warrant that led police to Christian's body and other key evidence in the case" according to press reports. To quote Detective Todd Childress of the Knoxville Police Department, "The affidavit, the signature line had been cut off. I went to print it, and it printed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper, instead of legal paper."
This was the "first search warrant Detective Childress ever authored" and "several eyes saw it, but no one caught the missing signature, until after officers had already been inside the Chipman Street home and found Channon Christian's body." The defence wants all the evidence, including Channon Christian's body, suppressed. The victims families call al of this "legal games" and according to Channon's father Gary Christian, "In my opinion, they didn't need a search warrant at all. If those guys were trying to do it the right way, that's fine." Newsom's mother added, "We're trying to come up with the point of all this. With all the bickering back and forth." Gary Christian said, "The laws and the guidelines, they're all to protect the wrong ones in my opinion." Ref. Apr 17, 2009 WVLT
(AP) -- The Knoxville judge Richard Baumgartner will allow the victims' families to wear photo buttons of them. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel Baungartner said that the families of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom should be allowed to express their loss. To quote WXVT, "The victims' families did feel the judge sided with them when he ruled that they would be allowed to wear buttons bearing pictures of Christian and Newsom. The defense tried to prevent any kind of memorabilia to be worn in the courtroom."
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