Court hears arguments on Coleman's questioning in C-N murders

Court hears arguments on Coleman's questioning in Christian-Newsom murders

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Vanessa Coleman Vanessa Coleman

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - In a court hearing Friday, the defense sought to throw out a key interview of Vanessa Coleman, the only female suspect in the Christian-Newsom murders.

Judge Richard Baumgartner said he'll rule later on whether to suppress Coleman's interview.

Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, were carjacked, robbed, raped and murdered in East Knoxville in January 2007.

Coleman was initially put in federal protective custody just after the crimes because she was identified as a possible witness.

Coleman signed away her right to custody right before she was interviewed by ATF Agent Bernard Waggoner in Knoxville.

Investigators originally found Coleman in Kentucky with two men convicted in this case, her ex-boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins, and his friend, George Thomas.

Not long after the ATF interviewed her, Coleman was arrested in Kentucky and charged in the case.

Agent Waggoner testified Friday that he felt Coleman wasn't telling the whole truth when he questioned her. He asked Coleman's mother to talk to her. Her father was also at the interview.

After Coleman signed a waiver of protective custody, Waggoner admitted he questioned her without recording it until the last 15 minutes. The whole interview lasted over two hours.

During that questioning, Coleman revealed for the first time that she had physical contact with Channon Christian.

Coleman said LeMaricus Davidson, who got the death penalty in this case, forced her to check Christian's pulse after he strangled her.

Defense attorney Russ Greene on Friday repeatedly questioned Waggoner on why the first two hours of Coleman's questioning weren't recorded. Waggoner said he didn't think he needed to record until Coleman started spilling new details about the torture slayings.

That wasn't a good enough answer for the defense who called Waggoner's interview reprehensible and prejudicial.

The defense claims federal investigators didn't record the whole interview because they were taking advantage of an 18-year-old who, at that point, in the investigation was only a witness.

The defense argued that the ATF threatened Coleman to get her to cooperate.

In response, prosecutor Leland Price said there was no foul play and Waggoner did nothing wrong. 

Price said a warning to a witness or suspect to tell the truth is appropriate. Price also added that Coleman's mother was with her during the whole process.

The Newsom and Christian families say Coleman is as guilty as the three already convicted in this case. They hope she ultimately receives the death penalty.

Coleman denies having any involvement in the crimes except for being forced to check Christian's pulse after she was strangled.

The court plans to give out jury questionnaires for Coleman's trial on April 9.

Potential jurors will be interviewed on April 27. The jury is expected to be seated by April 30.

Opening arguments in the trial are scheduled for May 3.


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