Judge hears Coleman request to bar evidence in retrial

Judge hears Coleman request to bar evidence in retrial

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Vanessa Coleman was convicted in May 2010 of facilitating Channon Christian's murder, kidnapping, rape and theft. Vanessa Coleman was convicted in May 2010 of facilitating Channon Christian's murder, kidnapping, rape and theft.
Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has yet to decide whether he will agree to a defense motion to exclude pictures of the victims. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has yet to decide whether he will agree to a defense motion to exclude pictures of the victims.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A re-trial for one of the defendants in the Christian-Newsom murder case is scheduled to start next month. 

Vanessa Coleman was convicted in May 2010 of facilitating Channon Christian's murder, kidnapping, rape and theft. After trial irregularities were alleged against Judge Richard Baumgartner, a new trial was ordered for all of the defendants. 

The state did not challenge the retrial for Coleman, but continues to fight against orders for new trials for the other three defendants.

Coleman was in court Monday for a motions hearing. The hearing lasted about an hour.

As always the families of murder victims Channon Christian and Chris Newsom were there during the hearing.

The hearing means one more step is taken to a retrial. It has also meant one more night of restlessness for the Christian family. 

"I haven't slept for five-and-a-half years," said Deena Christian, mother of Channon. "There will be no difference. There's not a second of a day that goes by that we still don't think about what they did to our daughter."

Defense attorney Theodore Lavit is asking Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to exclude pictures of the victims, both before and after their deaths. 

He also wants all photos and videos displayed to be in black and white so they do not inflame the jury's emotions.

The state says the images are necessary to establish witness testimony. The parents insist all photos should be allowed.

"The pictures of what they did. I mean, they murdered Channon and Chris," said Deena Christian. "I mean, the facts are the facts. You can't have that trial without showing those pictures."

The defense is also asking that certain gun evidence be excluded, claiming Coleman is not charged in any crimes with Newsom. He died of a gunshot wound. Lavit says evidence related to Newsom's death should be excluded.

The state says the evidence is relevant in proving the kidnapping and Coleman's role in facilitation. 

Chris Newsom's family says you can't separate Channon and Chris in the crime. 

"That tells the complete story as to how it began and the process," said Hugh Newsom, Chris Newsom's father. "Both were taken to that house on Chipman Street, Chris and Channon."

As the retrial moves forward the Christians say they feel like there is no end in sight.

"We'll both go to our graves fighting for justice for Channon and for Chris because you can't separate the two and they deserve justice," said Deena Christian.

Another issue discussed was how the jury will be selected. 

Judge Blackwood says he will ask questions in a group setting first, then he will individually ask what the potential jurors know about the case. 

The defense also asked the judge to allow the jury to only hear recorded statements from Coleman and not be provided transcripts.

The state disagreed, saying they have notes and transcripts they want the jurors to see.

Judge Blackwood will make a decision about whether or not to allow the transcripts, images and gun evidence at a later date.

The trial is scheduled to start on November 12. 

The cases of the other three defendants in the Christian-Newsom murder case, Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas, remain in limbo. 

Judge Blackwood says he has been unable to conduct a proper review of the cases until the issue of his recusal has been resolved.

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