Death penalty questions bring jury pool tears in Cobbins trial

Death penalty questions bring jury pool tears in Cobbins trial

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Letalvis Cobbins Letalvis Cobbins

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

NASHVILLE (WATE) -- Death penalty questions in Nashville Thursday brought out tears and hedging from the jury pool for the first trial of suspects accused of killing Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

Attorneys for both sides continue questioning potential jurors in Davidson County for the trial of Letalvis Cobbins. 

Several potential jurors were dismissed Thursday morning because they're strongly opposed to the death penalty. One woman quoted the Bible during questioning, saying "it's not our place, it's God's place."

Another member of the jury pool told the court he wouldn't be a good juror because he's on a strict diet regimen and has already lost 20 pounds.

One of Cobbins' attorneys, Scott Green, will attempt to prove that Cobbins wasn't the key player in the rapes and murders of Christian and Newsom. 

"What if he was involved with some of it and not all of it. Could you make that distinction?" Green asked a potential juror.

Later, prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked jury pool members if they had to decide, "Mr. Cobbins, your sentence is death. Could you do that?" 

A few cried in response. Others said they couldn't answer appropriately right now.

The issue got so heated at one point Thursday afternoon, Judge Richard Baumgartner lost his temper for the first time during the selection process. He angrily yelled at the attorneys to stop arguing.

The warning came after Green repeatedly asked a woman, a proponent of the death penalty,  whether she could truly consider a lesser sentence. "Honestly and openly can you go through the other parts? There is no wrong answer. I just need to know," Green said.

The question lead to a shouting match between the two sides. Prosecutor Leland Price loudly asked the judge to mute the defense.

Despite the defense's objection, the woman at the center of the heated debate was told to come back Friday for another round of questions.

By late Thursday, afternoon a handful of jurors were dismissed solely on the death penalty issue. Most in that group were strongly opposed to it.

One man who guards death row inmates for a living says he could never sign a warrant to kill anyone. Another woman who lost her son to a murder says she still couldn't sentence someone to death. 

Pretrial publicity didn't pose a problem in Thursday's selection process, although it's what brought the process to Davidson County. However, each juror isn't being questioned about the publicity.

All 175 potential jurors in the pool were questioned individually. The majority will be back for another round of questions Friday. Those questions will be given in a group setting. A final jury is expected to be seated Friday.

Cobbins is in Nashville for the selection process.

Three other suspects are charged in the case: Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman. They're all facing the death penalty. The judge has denied several motions to take it off the table.

The jury for Cobbins' trial will be brought to Knoxville and sequestered.


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