Day 5: Jurors deliberate in Vanessa Coleman retrial

Day 5: Jurors deliberate in Vanessa Coleman retrial

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The defense called Linda Coleman and Gregory Coleman, Vanessa's parents, to the stand before resting their case. The defense called Linda Coleman and Gregory Coleman, Vanessa's parents, to the stand before resting their case.
Vanessa Coleman listened to closing arguments by Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald. Vanessa Coleman listened to closing arguments by Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald.
Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald gives closing arguments. Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald gives closing arguments.
Defense attorney Theodore Lavit told jurors that the state did not meet the burden of proof in the case. Defense attorney Theodore Lavit told jurors that the state did not meet the burden of proof in the case.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood read the charges against Vanessa Coleman to the jury before deliberations began. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood read the charges against Vanessa Coleman to the jury before deliberations began.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Jurors began deliberations in the case against Christian-Newsom defendant Vanessa Coleman Monday afternoon.

Closing arguments began in the morning and lasted through the early afternoon. Earlier on Monday, the defense called Vanessa Coleman's parents to the stand before resting their case.

The jury was sent home just after 5:00 p.m. and was expected to resume deliberations on Tuesday morning.

Coleman is being tried for a second time for her role in the torture, rape, murder and robbery of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.


The Christian-Newsom Murder Trials


Before testimony got underway, defense attorney Theodore Lavit filed a motion to have the trial dismissed for insufficient evidence. The motion was denied.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood asked Coleman if she would testify and she said that she would not be taking the stand.

Defense calls Coleman's dad as first witness

The first witness the defense called was Gregory Coleman, Vanessa's father.

He said he came to Knoxville on Jan. 16, 2007 when they subpoenaed his daughter to testify before the grand jury.

He testified that his wife was in the room while Vanessa was being interviewed.

Coleman spoke about riding around Knoxville with investigators to see if Vanessa could identify certain buildings. He said he was in the car with his daughter during the three-hour ride and said she couldn't tell them how to get to any of the locations.

Coleman said after testifying, investigators met with Vanessa again on Jan. 19, at which time they returned her personal belongings like her keys and license.

During Gregory Coleman's testimony, the state objected several times, claiming his testimony was hearsay.

Coleman testified that he thought Vanessa was simply a witness until he saw her picture on the news. He said he then became nervous that someone might retaliate against her.

He said that once her picture was leaked to the media, Vanessa and her mother were put into protective custody.

He said he was interviewed again on Jan. 31.

On cross-examination, the state asked Coleman if he knew where Vanessa's friend Natosha Hays' house was located and how long it would take to drive there.

Vanessa's mother, Linda Coleman, takes the stand

Lavit next called Vanessa's mother, Linda Coleman, to the stand.

She also testified about her daughter's questioning, saying Vanessa was cooperative with authorities.

She said that she expected Vanessa to come home on Jan. 2 or 3 after speaking with her on New Year's Eve.

On cross examination, prosecutors asked Coleman about her daughter's boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins.

She said that she didn't know Vanessa was dating Cobbins or that they had traveled to Knoxville together in November 2006.

The state pointed out that for a period of nine days, Coleman did not know the whereabouts of her daughter.

They also pointed out that Vanessa had several places to stay after returning to Kentucky, but chose to stay with Cobbins.

After her testimony, the defense rested its case.

Fitzgerald begins the prosecution's closing arguments

After a brief recess, Assistant District Attorney Takisha Fitzgerald began giving closing statements.

She outlined the timeline of events in the deaths of Christian and Newsom and reviewed the evidence that tied Coleman to the crimes.

She argued that Coleman could not have been in fear for her life because she chose not to leave the house at any point or return to Kentucky with her friend, Stacy Lawson, when she offered.

"All of the stuff that she knew, she had the opportunity to not only get herself out of the house, she had the opportunity to save Ms. Christian," Fitzgerald argued.

She said that the other men left her at the home alone with Christian, including the time the men left to kill Christopher Newsom.

"If it wasn't for Vanessa Coleman those four guys couldn't have taken Chris Newsom to the train tracks," the prosecutor said. "Ms. Coleman, at that point of time, is the only captor."

Fitzgerald argued that Coleman had to have heard Christian being tortured in the house because of the severity of Channon's injuries.

The defense argues for acquittal in closing arguments

Attorney Theodore Lavit reminded jurors of their mission outlined during jury selection in Jackson.

He cautioned jurors against finding Coleman guilty because she was present in the Chipman Street house or by association because she was with the other defendants.

"I want you do judge this fairly," he said. "She was just caught up in something."

Lavit argued against the prosecution that Coleman had any involvement and said there was no proof to connect her to the crimes.

During the statement, Lavit repeatedly referred to Coleman as an 18-year-old girl to emphasize her age.

"This 18-year-old girl never knew nothing and there's no proof that she ever knew anything when those three people took off like that," he argued.

Lavit got heated at times, raising his voice loudly. He said the state did not meet its burden of proof in the case.

He acknowledged that Coleman lied in her first interview, but said the majority of her given statements were consistent.

"We wouldn't be here if Vanessa's story didn't have some warts on it," Lavit said. "Every case has warts on it, or it wouldn't be a case."

"I wish Vanessa hadn't lied. I wish Vanessa hadn't touched the bindings from where her skin cells came off," he continued.

Lavit compared Coleman to the character Tom Robinson in the classic book "To Kill a Mockingbird", saying she was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.

He said that some of the diary entries were written in the presence of Cobbins.

"It represents, ladies and gentlemen, the immature words of an 18-year-old who was unable to try to process what she had witnessed down here," he told jurors.

Lavit said Coleman was afraid of Cobbins.

"She said, 'I was scared out of my mind.' Well, who wouldn't be," he said.

The jury broke around midday for lunch.

Assistant DA Leland Price speaks to jurors

After a lunch recess, Assistant District Attorney Leland Price spoke once more to jurors.

He advised them to go over the evidence that had been presented to them.

He said that Coleman had to know that Christian was being brutalized and raped by the other men because she heard Christian say "no, stop don't do that".

Price said Coleman had to have known because she testified that Christian walked as if she was sore.

He argued that while Lemaricus Davidson kept his former girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, from entering the room where Christian was held, he did not require the same of Coleman.

Price once again showed jurors images from Coleman's diary written after the crimes.

"What better way to get in her mind, to know what she's thinking than by looking at her journal," he said, before reading some of the entries.

Price said the diary did not indicate someone who was held against her will or someone who was afraid of her boyfriend.

Jury deliberates

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood then read the charges against Coleman and gave instructions for reaching a decision before turning things over to the jury for deliberations around 3:15 p.m.

Just after 5:00 p.m., Judge Blackwood dismissed the jury until Tuesday morning.

6 News Reporter Stephanie Beecken contributed to this report.

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