UT law professor on why Cobbins didn't get death sentence

UT law professor on why Cobbins didn't get death sentence

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Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins
"Wait a minute, you have four people, five people involved or allegedly involved in criminal activity and who knows who's actually going to be sentenced to death. Different jury, different outcome," Dwight Aarons said. "Wait a minute, you have four people, five people involved or allegedly involved in criminal activity and who knows who's actually going to be sentenced to death. Different jury, different outcome," Dwight Aarons said.

By HARLOW SUMERFORD
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- "God dang, what do you have to do to earn the death penalty in this state, c'mon?" demanded Gary Christian, moments after Letalvis Cobbins learned Thursday he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury convicted Cobbins of murdering Christian's daughter, Channon, and helping bring about the murder of her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, in 2007.

When Cobbins was found guilty of premeditated murder, Gary and Deena Christian believed the death sentence would follow.

In their eyes, death is the only suitable punishment for what Cobbins did to their daughter.

Instead, the jury decided on life without parole, leaving many to wonder, what happened. 

6 News went to University of Tennessee criminal law professor Dwight Aarons on Thursday for answers.

"It is one thing for us to say, I can do it if necessary. It is a whole different ball game if that moment of truth arises and you recognize, you realize, if I vote a certain way, certain things will happen. Namely, this person will be sentenced to death and put on death row and may eventually be executed. Maybe then they start to hesitate," Aarons said.

He also said without hearing directly from the jurors, it's difficult to know why they decided against a death sentence.

Maybe they questioned Cobbins' direct involvement in the murders or maybe they were swayed by family testimony.

Tennessee, like most states, allows the jury instead of the judge to decide punishment in capital murder cases.

Just because this jury decided to show mercy, Aarons said it means little for the three remaining defendants.

"You cannot predict, and that again is one of the critics of the system. Wait a minute, you have four people, five people involved or allegedly involved in criminal activity and who knows who's actually going to be sentenced to death. Different jury, different outcome," Aarons said.

Cobbins was brought to the Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville on Thursday where he'll have a 30-60 day evaluation.

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