Online comments allowed in coverage of Christian - Newsom suspects

Online comments allowed in coverage of Christian - Newsom suspects

Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins
Lemaricus Davidson Lemaricus Davidson
George Thomas George Thomas
Vanessa Coleman Vanessa Coleman

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Judge Richard Baumgartner on Tuesday denied defense motions to restrict media coverage about four suspects accused of murdering Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in 2007.

The suspects are Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman.

All four suspects had asked the court to order media outlets to prohibit people from posting comments about stories related to the case.

The suspects had also asked the court to require people posting comments to use their real names and addresses or to have guidelines established for acceptable comments and real-time monitors ensuring that people complied.  

The court heard arguments from both sides in a hearing in February over comments posted online on the Web sites for The Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR. 

The state argued that the defendants were seeking to unconstitutionally restrain the media and censor public speech.

In his ruling, Judge Baumgartner writes, "The Internet is not restricted to use by the media alone. Private citizens have access to and utilize the Internet every day to freely discuss and exchange ideas whether on the Internet forums of the two media outlets or otherwise."

He goes on to write, "Considering all the factors, this court cannot find that disabling the Internet forums of the media Internet sites would be an appropriate restraint. So long as people are not committing any wrongdoing, they should be free to anonymously participate in the online forums."

Judge Baumgartner also denied the request by Cobbins' defense attorney, Scott Green, to withdraw from the case. Green told the court previously he had received death threats posted on Web sites and he wanted off the case.

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