Both sides argue case on Davidson's sentence

Both sides argue case on Davidson's sentence

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LeMaricus Davidson LeMaricus Davidson
"If I could have my son back for just a short time, I would give everything up and live on the street," Hugh Newsom said. "If I could have my son back for just a short time, I would give everything up and live on the street," Hugh Newsom said.
"We failed as parents to keep our daughter safe," Deena Christian said. "Did these kids suffer," she asked. "What do you think? "We failed as parents to keep our daughter safe," Deena Christian said. "Did these kids suffer," she asked. "What do you think?
Davidson's uncle, Hugh Wilburn, said he hasn't seen Davidson since he was eight or nine, but spoke to him in jail on Wednesday. Davidson's uncle, Hugh Wilburn, said he hasn't seen Davidson since he was eight or nine, but spoke to him in jail on Wednesday.
Jason Bramblett, a part time relief staff worker at a West Tennessee group home where Davidson lived, had him in his wedding. Jason Bramblett, a part time relief staff worker at a West Tennessee group home where Davidson lived, had him in his wedding.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The prosecution and the defense argued their cases on LeMaricus Devall Davidson's sentence Thursday in a hearing, but the jury won't deliberate until Friday.

Closing arguments will be held on Friday morning. The jury, which is sequestered, will get the case after that. Judge Richard Baumgartner made that decision because the hearing lasted from 9:00 until after 5:00.

The death penalty is a possible sentence for Davidson. He could also be sentenced to life in prison without parole or life in prison.

Davidson was found guilty Wednesday of all the murder charges of Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, in January 2007.

He was also found guilty of especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape and theft in this case.

The jury found Davidson guilty of the lesser charge of facilitating Newsom's rapes, rather than raping Newsom himself.

Davidson was found guilty of raping Christian.

Before the jury was brought in, the defense asked Judge Richard Baumgartner to merge Davidson's murder charges, but the judge refused.

State's opening: Davidson deserves death penalty

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald told the jury that the aggravating circumstances in this case outweigh any mitigating factors so Davidson deserves the death penalty.

In 2001, Davidson was sentenced to eight years for aggravated robbery, a felony, in Madison County. Fitzgerald said that's why Davidson made sure Christian and Newsom didn't live.

Davidson was also convicted of carjacking in Madison County, but that conviction isn't allowed to be entered in this case.

She said some of the aggravating factors are that Davidson had committed a prior violent crime, that he tortured this couple and that he tried to avoid being arrested.

Defense's opening: Any doubts should weigh in Davidson's favor

Defense attorney David Eldridge told the jury "any lingering doubt" about Davidson's role in these crimes should weigh in his favor.

"Each of you must make an individual decision on mitigating and aggravating circumstances," Eldridge said.

Davidson was born to a 16-year-old mother in a home with drugs, crime and neglect, Eldridge said. "By the age of 10, he had no male role model in his life."

At age 16, Eldridge said Davidson got to stay in a group home, then was taken in by foster parents,  "but it was too late. He was too damaged."

Eldridge said some of Davidson's family came two thirds of the way across the state to speak on his behalf to tell the jurors "what he is really like."

He said in prison, Davidson wasn't a trouble maker or violent. Instead, he thrives in "a structured environment" like prison.

Eldridge said Davidson is a victim of marijuana and cocaine addiction.

Davidson identified as previous convict

The state called Madison County Court Clerk Judy Barnhill to the stand to identify Davidson as the one convicted of aggravated robbery.

The judgement against him was entered into evidence, but the judge allowed no other details about it.

A Madison County prosecutor was also called to the stand, where he identified Davidson as the convicted felon in his case.

Newsom's sister cherishes her memories 

Chris Newsom's oldest sister, Andrea Bowers, took the stand. She described her memories of him and said, "I cherish them all."

She said Chris gave his life to Christ as a teen.

She also said she and Chris were both NASCAR fans and he once got her a Rusty Wallace autograph.

Bowers said she found the autograph in her wallet shortly after Chris was killed.

"I mourn the loss of Chris and the life he'll never live," Bowers said.

Newsom's mother: Chris wanted a future

Mary Newsom said Chris sold his motorcycle about two months before he was killed. He told her he did it because he got worried he might have an accident and "He wanted a life. He wanted a future."

"My life will never be the same because of this senseless crime," Mary said, looking right at Davidson.

"I can't imagine how scared he was," she said, as her voice broke. "Our life will never be the same."

Mary said Chris had told her and her husband, Hugh, that he would take care of them when they got older, but he won't be there to keep that promise.

She identified Chris in several family photos that were shown in court.

Newsom's father: "Chris Newsom is safe at home."

Hugh Newsom said he goes up to his son's room from time to time, but to him, it's empty.

He said Chris' grandmother is in a nursing home where she has a picture of Chris and Channon that she insists can't be moved from where she can see it.

Hugh said Chris would've made an excellent father and his nieces and nephews loved him. Anytime they visited, he said they wanted to know if Chris was home and if he was, they bypassed their grandparents to go to their uncle's room.

"I have been deprived of spoiling his kids," Hugh said.

He also said Chris once admonished him for criticizing one of his struggling friends and he's never forgotten that conversation.

"You don't say negative things about the dead because they can't defend themselves or tell their side of the story," Hugh said.

"Chris was not a saint. We've never said he was, but I know in his final breath, his concern was for Channon, for Channon with a 'C.'" That's what his family said he called her as he started telling them about meeting and dating her.

"If I could have my son back for just a short time, I would give everything up and live on the street," Hugh said.

"No one can hurt Chris Newsom anymore," Hugh said, borrowing a quote from Jake Mabe, of the Halls Shopper, referring to Chris playing baseball. "Chris Newsom is safe at home."

Most of the female jurors, as well as his family and friends, were crying as Hugh gave his statement.

Christian's brother: Channon was my best friend

Channon's older brother, Chase Christian, told the jury she was the best baby sister, his best friend and his inspiration.

He said, "I love you" were the last words she said to him when they joked about whether he would be able to pass one of his college finals.

Christian's mother: "We failed to keep our daughter safe."

Deena Christian told the jury her daughter she's the proud mother of "a special young woman."

"She wasn't perfect, none of us are, but she was a beautiful young woman who had a beautiful soul," Deena said. 

Deena described how Channon and her best friend, Kara Sowards, who sat in court, were "joined at the hip." She said Kara's now "the only daughter I have left." Kara Sowards sat crying.

"She was working two jobs while taking a full schedule at UT," Deena said.

"Her dad will never walk her down the aisle now. Channon won't have her wedding day," Deena said.

"I know she was terrified that day. Chris was a wonderful man who treated Channon as a princess."

"We failed as parents to keep our daughter safe," Deena said. "Did these kids suffer," she asked. "What do you think?

What she had to endure "haunts us each and every day. I can't sleep and I'm always looking over my shoulder," Deena said.

"Channon was taken from us far too early. She suffered more than any one person should have to suffer." But "I would trade places with her."

She identified Channon in several family photos that were shown in court.

Then the state rested its case.

Davidson doesn't take stand

After lunch, Davidson the judge he decided not to take the stand on his own behalf.

The judge had told Davidson it was his decision, but his attorneys could counsel him on what to do.

Judge: execution more expensive than life in prison

After lunch, the judge told the jury about a study by the state comptroller showing that the death penalty is a more expensive sentence than life in prison.

However, he also told them not to weigh the costs at all in their decision on Davidson's sentence. 

Mitigation specialist describes Davidson's difficult family life

The defense called its first witness, mitigation specialist Rosalind Andrews, to the stand. Davidson is one of five children. His mother, Nell, died this past year.

Andrews told the jury Davidson came from a family of incest, drugs and severe abuse and said Davidson's grandmother was essentially "a drunk."

Davidson's mother witnessed a murder by a stepfather when she was about eight-years-old, Andrews said. His mother was also molested and beaten.

Andrews said Davidson's mother told him that his aunt Rosie wanted her to abort him.

"Nell had six kids with three different fathers," Andrews said. "His father played no role in LeMaricus' life.

Andrews said Davidson attended a different school every year and his mother abandoned him with an aunt, at one point.

She also said Davidson's mother beat her children with "whatever was laying around." She used extension cords as one example, and said they didn't have to do much to be treated this way. 

Andrews said Davidson's mother was a prostitute with records of charges as late as 2005.

Court broke for lunch shortly after the state began its cross examination, to give prosecutors a chance to review a 36 page report by Andrews. However, the defense chose parts of the report to exclude from evidence.

When court resumed, Andrews told defense attorney David Eldridge that Davidson's family members never visited him while he was in prison for his Madison County sentence.

She also said Davidson's mother had bi-polar disease and was treated for it several times.

As the state resumed its cross examination, Andrews told prosecutor Leland Price that Davidson was sexually abused by a neighbor when he was growing up.

Andrews agreed with Price that Davidson was exposed to church and to love under the care of his Aunt Rosie.

At age 16, Davidson was put into a group home in Bells, Tennessee. Andrews' report said Davidson was well behaved while in that home and even led a Bible study class.

Her report also said Davidson's foster parents acted as real parents, gave him presents and took good care of him.

Davidson was described as a football star at Jackson Christian School. Andrews' report said at one point, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer met Davidson and said,  "This is what we look for."

Davidson's foster parents found marijuana in his room twice so he was kicked out of their home.

Davidson needed a place to live after turning 18 so he went to live with a coach. Eventually, he got a job and his own place, but two months later, he got in trouble.

Andrews' report described a downward spiral of drug possession for Davidson, then he went to prison for aggravated robbery. In prison, he had infractions for testing positive for marijuana and for being in the wrong pod.

On rebuttal questioning, Andrews told Eldridge that Davidson was never in any fights with other inmates or guards in prison.

Davidson's uncle describes his mother's background

The defense called Davidson's uncle, Hugh Wilburn, to the stand. He's the half-brother of Davidson's mother, Nell.

Wilburn said their mother was "drunk" all the time and described being beaten by her for saying he was hungry.

He said when he was a child, he saw his mother's boyfriend dead in a dumpster after he was murdered.

He said he joined the Army at age 18 to get out of Memphis and away from that life because there was no future for him there.

He said at one point, he offered to help Nell, who he knew had drug problems, but she didn't take him up on it.

Wilburn said he has struggled with alcohol and drug problems himself and got treatment.

Wilburn said he hasn't seen Davidson since he was eight or nine, but spoke to him in jail on Wednesday.

On cross examination, Wilburn told prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald that although he had drug problems and came from a rough background, he's never been convicted of especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping or aggravated rape.

Davidson's sister: childhood so harsh she attempted suicide

The defense called Davidson's younger half-sister, Laquitta Boddie, to the stand. She said they had the same mother and different fathers.

She said their mother didn't treat them like a mother should. "She hit me with an extension cord and other things."

Boddie also said their mother would leave them in a car for hours while she was in a crack house.

She broke down recalling the numerous fist beatings Davidson got from their mother.

Boddie said she doesn't know who Davidson's father is.

She cried as she said she and one of her sisters had problems with depression and tried to kill themselves at times because of their harsh lives.

"Did you get through it?" attorney David Eldridge asked. "Yes," she said.

On cross examination, Boddie agreed with prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald that Aunt Rose taught them not to do drugs, steal or murder people.

Boddie told Fitzgerald that Davidson visited his family for about a week after he was released from prison in 2006.

She said she visited Davidson in jail when she testified on behalf of her brother, Letalvis Cobbins. He was convicted in August in this case and sentenced to life without parole.

As she left the stand, Boddie blew Davidson a kiss.

Group home staffer had Davidson in his wedding

The defense called Jason Bramblett to the stand. He was a weekend relief staff worker at the West Tennessee group home where Davidson lived.

Bramblett said Davidson was "unique" and no family members would visit him on designated days.

He said Davidson was at the home longer than most kids. They typically stayed for 30 - 90 days, but Davidson was there for more than nine months.

He asked Davidson to be in his wedding, explaining that he "totally trusted" him. He added that he knew about Davidson's past, but he was trying to do many things to turn his life around then.

Bramblett admitted to prosecutor Leland Price that he cared for Davidson very much and that Davidson was capable of following the rules at the group home.

Davidson's foster mother: We considered him family

The defense called Davidson's foster mother, Flo Rudd, to the stand. A coach at a group home urged her to take in Davidson when he was a young teen and needed to move from a group home.

Rudd said she had "the oddest feeling" when she saw Davidson that he was the boy who was supposed to live with her family.

She said her first impression of Davidson was that he was "cute, clean cut, polite." He lived with her family for a little over a year.

She said they got him enrolled in school, got tutors for him and she tutored him as well. "I was never afraid of LeMaricus."

Rudd also said Davidson's mother never called her to check on him.

Davidson was kicked out of the Rudd family's home after being caught a second time with marijuana.

She said she thinks Davidson loves them and they love him. She asked the jury to be merciful and allow him to live.

On cross examination, prosecutor Leland Price asked Rudd why she only visited Davidson once when he was in prison. She said there was a glitch and she wasn't allowed to.

She agreed that they tried to teach him right from wrong, but they really didn't have to do very much. She also said Davidson tended to make "some questionable friends."

Rudd identified several photos of Davidson that were shown in court, including one of him as a basketball player. She described him as a "natural athlete."

Foster brother never saw Davidson violent with anyone

Seth Rudd, Davidson's foster brother, took the stand. He's Flo Rudd's son, went to school with Davidson and they played basketball at church.

Rudd asked his parents to take Davidson in from the group home and they agreed. He said he felt like Davidson was his brother and never saw him be violent with anyone.

On cross examination, Rudd told prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald if Davidson needed help, he would've tried to help him.

Rudd said he didn't visit Davidson when he was in prison, but saw him after he was released from prison.

"He brought drugs into your parents' house. Was that a violation of your trust?" prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked. "Yes," Rudd said.

He said when Davidson had to leave, he packed his belongings in a trash bag while he was crying and said he was sorry.

"Your family gave him everything and he brought drugs into your house?" Fitzgerald asked. "Yes," Rudd said.

"The concept of right from wrong was firmly in place in your home?" Fitzgerald asked. "Yes, ma'am," Rudd said. 

Foster father: gave Davidson a chance, will be there for him

The defense called Davidson's foster father, Carl Rudd, to the stand.

He said he met Cobbins a few times when Davidson invited him to visit, but Rudd never liked Cobbins. He said he was never comfortable around Cobbins, was frightened of him and thought there was something "evil" about him.

Rudd said he made a commitment to Davidson that "We would be there for him." He also said he thought Davidson was "redeemable" as a youth.

He described meeting Davidson's mother on a couple of occasions by saying, "She appeared to be chemically altered."

Rudd said he saw Davidson twice when he was imprisoned in West Tennessee and tried to see him more than once when he was jailed in Knox County.

He said if Davidson is permitted to live, he will continue to be in contact with him and visit him.

Rudd also identified photos of Davidson with him and his son.

On cross examination, prosecutor Leland Price asked, "You took him in as your own son?" "Yes," Rudd said. "I gave it a try."

Elderly math tutor never had concerns for her safety

Davidson's elderly math tutor testified on his behalf from her home in Jackson. The defense video taped her testimony and showed it in court.

She said Davidson was "very friendly, very open and not any different from the other young men and woman that I helped."

She said she never had any concerns for her safety from Davidson.

Psychiatrist: Davidson not violent when sober

The defense called psychiatrist Dr. Peter Brown, of Signal Mountain, to the stand. He has evaluated Davidson.

Brown showed the jury a chart of childhood risk factors and explained what could help predict whether a person would be violent later in life.

He said parental neglect equals childhood delinquency and Davidson's childhood created the perfect storm of bad behavior indicators.

Brown said one of the biggest effects on Davidson's childhood was the lack of a male role model.

He told the jury the help of Davidson's foster parents came too late. By age 16, Brown said intervention was unlikely to result in "a turn around."

Brown said Davidson started using drugs by age 10 or 11 and he has above average intelligence. He's not paranoid when he's sober.

The jury foreman wanted to know how Davidson acts when he's on drugs. Brown said he can only say that Davidson's not violent when he's sober.

The foreman also asked if Davidson knows right from wrong? "When he's sober, yes," Brown said.

Group home parent takes stand

The defense called Alice Rey, one of the house parents for the West Tennessee Children's Home where Davidson stayed.

Rey said most boys stayed there for 45 to 90 days, but Davidson stayed longer because Shelby County forgot about him.

She said the teenage Davidson thrived at the home.

On cross examination, prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked, "For three years, it's fair to say Mr. Davidson was not neglected. You provided him food, clothing, shelter?" Rey said, "Yes." 

After Rey left the stand, the defense rested its case.


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