Davidson's attorney says lengthy praise service impacted verdict

Lemaricus Davidson's attorney says lengthy praise service impacted verdict

Posted:
6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs says he's never seen anything like this in his 25 years of criminal defense practice. 6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs says he's never seen anything like this in his 25 years of criminal defense practice.
LeMaricus Davidson (Source: Knox County) LeMaricus Davidson (Source: Knox County)

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Newly-filed information in the Christian Newsom case is being described as "explosive."

Attorneys for Lemaricus Davidson are asking for a new trial due to outside influences on the jury during deliberations. They say the jury held a religious praise service while deliberating on the death sentence for Davidson.

In newly-released, post-trial information a juror blogged about his experience, causing the defense to question how much evidence and instruction the jury actually considered when making a decision and if the verdict was impacted by the worship service.

Lemaricus Davidson's attorney believes the blog post made by a juror in 2009 provides another reason to request a new trial.

Records show the blog was discovered by the state. Now the defense argues information revealed in the blog shows that the jurors were impacted by outside influences during a religious church service.

6 News legal analyst Greg Isaacs says he's never seen anything like this in his 25 years of criminal defense practice.

"Eighty percent of the deliberations was a - quote - praise service," said Isaacs.

According to court records, the juror wrote in the blog that during deliberations the jurors were split.

Eight jurors believed Davidson should receive death, four were unsure.

The juror wrote that out of the five-plus hours spent deliberating, four hours were spent in prayer and reading the Bible.

"The praise service intensified when the jurors were apparently hung eight to four, so in comes the guitar, in comes the hymns and shortly thereafter comes the vote for death," said Isaacs.

Records provided by a court officer shows that Bible verses were read, a guitar was played and hymns were sung by the jurors.

Isaacs says previous Tennessee cases show that prayer alone is not considered an outside influence and sometimes jurors may attend a church service, but that the four-hour-long religious service while deliberating stretches the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.

"They are charged with making their decision on the jury charge and the facts period, no outside influences. So not only did we have someone reading the Bible like a church service, we had someone conducting hymns and singing a number of hymns during the deliberations," said Isaacs.

In the blog the juror wrote, "We obeyed both God's law and man's law."

Isaacs says man's law is to make a decision based on evidence and the court's instruction. He says God's law varies.

"A church service that consumed much of the deliberation versus actual deliberation, it's very explosive and it will be very interesting to see how the trial court handles this," said Isaacs.

Isaacs believes this question of a religious service during deliberations will go to the Supreme Court of Tennessee and possibly to the United States Supreme Court.

The judge will hear Davidson's latest amended motion for a new trial on January 10 at 9 a.m.

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