Judge details his recusal rejection in Christian-Newsom murders

Judge details his recusal rejection in Christian-Newsom murders

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Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood denied that he has lost his objectivity when he wrote his latest order refusing to recuse himself from retrials in the Christian-Newsom murders.

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, the presiding judge in those four trials, Judge Richard Baumgartner, pleaded guilty to official misconduct in March 2011 and resigned from the bench. 

A probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation revealed that Baumgartner was buying prescription pain pills from Chris Gibson, a convicted felon on probation in Baumgartner's court.

The probe also found that Judge Baumgartner began obtaining his drugs by doctor shopping, then started buying them from Gibson and eventually became involved with Deena Castleman, one of his Drug Court graduates, in a relationship that included sex and pill sharing.

In Judge Blackwood's most recent refusal to recuse order, filed on September 7, he wrote that he was "shocked, sickened and disgusted" by the TBI case file on Baumgartner.

Judge Blackwood originally granted new trials to the four defendants in December 2011. He and the state have since battled over recusal motions.

Blackwood wrote that after the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered him to reconsider his order of retrials for Davidson and Cobbins, he's been unable to conduct that review due to the recusal issue. He said that left those cases in limbo.

He summarized by saying that rulings unfavorable to prosecutors are not grounds for recusal.

The state has 15 days to file an appeal.

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