Judge denies second recusal motion in Christian-Newsom murders

Judge denies second recusal motion in Christian-Newsom murders

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Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Letalvis Cobbins and LeMaricus Davidson Letalvis Cobbins and LeMaricus Davidson

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on Monday denied a second motion by the state to recuse himself in the Christian-Newsom murders case.

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

Four people were originally convicted in connection to the case: LeMaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman.

However, presiding Judge Richard Baumgartner resigned and pleaded guilty to official misconduct in March 2011. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe found he became a pill addict during the case.

Baumgartner is now facing federal charges in connection to the TBI probe. He's scheduled to stand trial in October.

Judge Blackwood took over the Christian-Newsom case after Baumgartner. In a yelling match on June 14, he refused to recuse himself from the case. Blackwood had granted new trials in the case in December 2011.

The state filed a new recusal motion for Judge Blackwood on July 24.

In court Monday, Assistant District Attorney Leland Price asked if reasonable people can have doubts about Judge Blackwood's impartiality. "They certainly can," Price said.

The ADA also discussed Blackwood's use of email to shield the media and said the "secrecy and deception" puts his impartiality into question.

No matter Judge Blackwood's ruling, "Your honor can't be trusted, even if in our favor," Price said, adding that the judge's actions undermine public confidence in these proceedings and the integrity of the court.

Attorney Tom Dillard, who represents George Thomas, said the retrials were "properly granted." He said if the state wasn't happy with the decision, maybe it's not used to losing.

Dillard brought up other cases Judge Blackwood has handled with no state request for a recusal and said this case was unfair.

He's never seen a judge under such an unrelenting attack, Dillard said.

Next, Letalvis Cobbins' attorney, Kim Parton, told Judge Blackwood her client wants her off the case.

Judge Blackwood denied the state's motion to recuse, but has not issued a ruling on Cobbins' request.

Parton is not to have any contact with Cobbins until Judge Blackwood makes his ruling.

The Newsom and Christian families filled the two front rows of the courtroom Monday, and they were upset by Judge Blackwood's decision.

"I cannot, will not, let that man set on my daughter's trials, not without a war. I can't do it. He ain't made a rational decision since I saw him," said Gary Christian, Channon's father.

The Newsoms said Monday was their 283rd time at court.

While he was angered by the judge's decision, Hugh Newsom, Chris' father, said he  wasn't surprised. "(I'm) very disenchanted with his inability to operate without being prejudiced. He's prejudiced 100 percent," he said.

"He had his mind made up before we even got a chance to say anything," added Chris' mother, Mary Newsom.

Special prosecutor John Gill said the district attorney's office is consulting with the attorney general office about whether to appeal Judge Blackwood's decision. They intend to make that decision by next week.

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