Death penalty still possible in Christian - Newsom murder case

Death penalty still possible in Christian - Newsom murder case

Posted: Updated:
Lemaricus Davidson Lemaricus Davidson
Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins
George Thomas George Thomas
Vanessa Coleman Vanessa Coleman

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Prosecutors for the state agreed in a hearing Friday to trim the indictments for the four suspects charged with kidnapping, raping and murdering Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in 2007. However, the death penalty remains on the table.

Eight aggravated rape counts were dropped from the total filed against Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman.

Judge Richard Baumgartner said that in the original filing, eight counts of rape by force and eight counts of rape by coercion duplicated each other.

Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price agreed with the judge after defense attorneys  argued earlier their clients were facing too many charges.

The judge denied two defense motions that attempted to remove the death penalty from the possible sentencing for the suspects.

One motion claimed the death penalty is unconstitutional because it costs more than a sentence of life in prison.

The other motion claimed the death penalty is racially biased. Judge Baumgartner said that's a Supreme Court issue.

If a trial produced a conviction, the defense team could pole the jurors during the sentencing phase to ask if they're aware the death penalty is more costly than other sentences.

Christian's parents, Gary and Deena, say they're relieved the judge didn't toss out the death penalty. 

"I don't care if it's 100 percent black on death row. I don't care if it's 100 percent white on death row. I don't care what color you are. If you did the crime, you deserve to be there," Gary says.

"I could care less how much it costs. They killed our daughter. They murdered Chris. They need to go away," Deena says.

Friday, the defense discussed juror questions for the first time in court. Jurors will be asked about their opinions on the death penalty, whether they've ever blogged or written online comments about the case and their political preferences.

"That's intruding into someone's privacy. In my opinion, it shouldn't be brought up at all," says Christopher Newsom's father, Hugh.

On Thursday, Judge Baumgartner delayed the trials for Cobbins and Coleman, the first and second that were scheduled.

Cobbins' new trial date is Wednesday, August 12, a little over a month from when it was originally scheduled to start.

The judge granted a request by Cobbins' attorneys for more time to prepare their case. 

Hugh Newsom says they're glad the delay wasn't longer. "That's a small victory for us." 

Coleman's new trial date hasn't been scheduled yet.

Meanwhile although 8 counts of aggravated rape were dropped on each of the defendants, all four still face 12 counts of aggravated rape.

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