Attorneys battle over 'racially charged' comment made by Thomas

Attorneys battle over 'racially charged' comment made by Thomas

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George Thomas George Thomas
Detective Nevil Norman said the statement shocked him, but he didn't reveal it until 17 months later in 2008. He said he wrote it up and turned it in to the sheriff and the district attorney general. Detective Nevil Norman said the statement shocked him, but he didn't reveal it until 17 months later in 2008. He said he wrote it up and turned it in to the sheriff and the district attorney general.

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- In a motions hearing for George Thomas Friday, attorneys battled over a racially charged comment he allegedly made while he was being interrogated.

Thomas will be the third defendant to stand trial in the Christian-Newsom murders.

Judge Richard Baumgartner agreed to let Knox County sheriff's Detective Nevil Norman take the witness stand to testify about what Thomas said during a break in his interrogation.

Detective Norman said as he interrogated Thomas, they took a break, but he had asked if Thomas didn't wish he had done something to help the victims.

Detective Norman testified that Thomas responded, " F!#* that white girl. She don't mean nothing to me. You cops come into my neighborhood and kill us why should I get involved in something that's none of my business."

Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were carjacked, raped and murdered in January 2007. Two other defendants in the case have already been convicted.

LeMaricus Davidson was given the death penalty for his role in the slayings. His half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, was sentenced to life without parole.

Detective Norman said the statement shocked him, but he didn't reveal it until 17 months later in 2008. He said he wrote it up and turned it in to the sheriff and the district attorney general.

Defense attorney Tom Dillard asked Detective Norman why it took him so long to document the comment especially if it was so shocking. Taking a dig at Norman, the defense asked if there were pens and papers at the police station.  

The defense, trying to bar the racially charged comment from being introduced during the upcoming trial, threatened to call prosecutor Leland Price to the stand on Friday.

However, Price never wound up taking the stand to testify about how he learned of the comment.

The defense called the comment irrelevant and too late.

Phone call in jail

Prosecutors also said Friday they want to introduce a phone call between Thomas and his then girlfriend, Stacey Lawson, into evidence.

In the call, Lawson asked where Christian was kept during the weekend of the murders. Thomas said she was kept in Davidson's room.

Lawson then asked why Thomas didn't call the police, Thomas told her, "Should have, would have, could have."

Prosecutors said although the comments are not a full blown confession  they show that Thomas knew about the slayings and did nothing.

"We are not trying to bring race into this, but these are the facts," said prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald.

Thomas benefited from the crimes by driving Christian's Toyota 4Runner, Fitzgerald argued.

Judge Baumgartner said Friday was the first time he heard about the phone call. He hasn't ruled on whether he'll allow the phone call or the comment by Thomas in the trial.

Victims' families react

"I don't know if race had anything to do with it. Three years, you've been trying to get us to say that. I don't think these people went out saying, 'Let's go get some white people," said Channon Christian's father, Gary.

Chris Newsom's father, Hugh, had a different focus. "He (Leland Price) said it should be allowed. Why shouldn't it be allowed?"

Jury seated earlier this week

A jury of 12 members and five alternates was seated Wednesday evening in Chattanooga.

Five men and seven women from Hamilton County make up the 12 member jury panel. They'll be sequestered for the trial, which will be in Knoxville.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, December 1.


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