Jury seated in George Thomas trial

Jury seated in George Thomas trial

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George Thomas George Thomas

6 News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WATE) -- A jury of 12 members and five alternates was seated Wednesday evening in Chattanooga for George Thomas, the third defendant to stand trial in the Christian-Newsom murders.

The only black man who was originally selected as one of the 12 jurors was excused after revealing his sister was murdered. He said he couldn't handle the graphic nature of the case.

Judge Richard Baumgartner tried to keep the man, but the defense objected and the judge relented. An alternate took the man's place.

Five men and seven women make up the 12 member jury panel. There's one black woman. All the rest of the jurors are white.

The court plans for the first three alternates who were chosen, two white women and a white man, to come to Knoxville for the trial.

The other two alternates, a white woman and man, are considered standbys who may not have to make the trip to Knoxville.

Group questioning

This phase is called the voir dire.

Judge Baumgartner wanted to start group questioning at 1:00 p.m., but attorneys for both sides said they preferred to finish individual questioning first.

Around 2:30, the judge finally chose 18 names at random to make the first group.

About 70 people total were questioned during this phase.

Prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald explained criminal responsibility and said the state will prove Thomas went along with the other defendants in this case.

Letalvis Cobbins, the first defendant, who was tried, was convicted of Channon Christian's murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Cobbins' half-brother, LeMaricus Davidson, was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty for the slayings of Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom.

Fitzgerald told the jury pool the state has no eyewitnesses and mostly circumstantial evidence. Davidson accused Thomas of shooting Newsom three times when he was interviewed by officers.

Two members of the jury pool said they'd have problems with the lack of direct evidence.

Individual questioning

More individual questioning was done Wednesday morning.

One woman was dismissed after she said she couldn't impose the death penalty on a defendant. She also said she knew about the case.

Thomas is more attentive to the process than in the last two days, when he only took notes, said little and barely changed his expression.

A woman who said she's about the same age as the victims was excused after she heard about the graphic photos in the case and started to cry.

Christian's body was found in trash bags in a trash can at a nearby house rented by LeMaricus Davidson.

Another woman was dismissed later because she couldn't deal with the gruesome nature of the case.

Judge Baumgartner asked one potential juror to look at Thomas as he asked, "Could you put him to death if he's found guilty?" The man said, "Yes," but "it's a hell of a thing."

As he was kept in the jury pool, a man asked Thomas his age. Thomas spoke to the court for the first time and said he's 26. The man also asked if Thomas went to college, but the judge him off. The judge later cut the man from the pool, saying he believed he was trying to build a rapport with Thomas.


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