Jury selected in Jackson for Vanessa Coleman trial

Jury selected in Jackson for Vanessa Coleman trial

Posted:
Vanessa Coleman listening to proceedings on Friday. Vanessa Coleman listening to proceedings on Friday.
500 potential jurors were screened in two different Jackson courtrooms. 500 potential jurors were screened in two different Jackson courtrooms.
"Your first responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, is to follow the law," Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood told jurors. "Your first responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, is to follow the law," Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood told jurors.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

JACKSON (WATE) - Jurors were selected Friday in the case against Vanessa Coleman, one of the four defendants in the Christian-Newsom murders.

Vanessa Coleman faces charges of facilitating Channon Christian's murder, kidnapping, rape and theft. She was convicted in 2010, but was granted a new trial because of Judge Richard Baumgartner's addiction to pain pills.

On Friday, 500 potential jurors were screened in two different Jackson courtrooms. The selection took place there because of the high-profile nature of the case.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who was removed from the other three Christian-Newsom trials, is still presiding in the case against Coleman.

Judge Blackwood held a discussion with jurors for about 30 minutes, telling them about the duty and responsibility of being a member of the jury.

"Your first responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, is to follow the law," said Judge Blackwood. "You must be absolutely honest and candid with every question regarding your qualifications to serve as juror."

The potential jurors were then asked to form a line for people who claimed it would be a hardship to participate in the trial.

Out of 200 people in one courtroom alone, only about 70 people were left after the hardship dismissals.

During proceedings, Coleman was dressed in pink with a new hairstyle, her red hair dyed back to black. She gave a shy smile to potential jurors as the judge introduced her.

Judge Blackwood said the trial would take about a week and that jurors will be sequestered in Knox County during that time.

"This is going to be hard. This is going to be difficult," said the judge. "You will be separated from your family for a period of time and we are going to try and move through the case as fast as we can to get you back home."

Fourteen people were later called to the jury box for more questioning, where they were asked if they previously knew anything about the case and whether they had formed an opinion.

Three had heard of the case. One potential juror had seen a Nancy Grace episode about the case that had aired the previous night, but claimed not to have formed an opinion about it.

The Knox County Assistant District Attorney then began asking questions to 16 potential jurors.

Prosecutors explained to them what they had to prove in the case. They described premeditation to the jurors as thinking before you act, like when driving.

They also asked jurors whether Coleman's charges meant they thought she was a little guilty. The potential jurors remained silent.

"The burden of proving her guilt or not proving her guilt rests with the State of Tennessee and that means she does not have to question any witnesses and does not have to take the witness stand," said Judge Blackwood.

The defense also asked whether they would find Coleman not guilty if they had a reasonable doubt.

They also asked if the potential jurors thought Casey Anthony jurors made the wrong decision. One person raised their hand.

After the day's proceedings, 12 jurors and six alternates were selected for the trial.

Only four alternates were planning to travel Knoxville on Monday. The trial was scheduled to begin on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

Of the sixteen traveling to Knoxville, eight were men and eight were women. Seven of the jurors were white and nine were black. A wide range of ages were represented in the jury pool.

The jury was scheduled to be bused to Knoxville to take part in the trial.

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