Davidson juror description of worship service doesn't match blog

Davidson juror description of worship service doesn't match blog

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LeMaricus Davidson (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) LeMaricus Davidson (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Christopher Baber was called to testify by Davidson's attorneys in their bid for a new trial. Christopher Baber was called to testify by Davidson's attorneys in their bid for a new trial.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - LeMaricus Davidson's attorneys failed Thursday to enter evidence they said would prove jurors in his first trial were influenced by prayer and hymn singing during a worship service.

The service took place just before the jury found Davidson guilty of murdering Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.

Christopher Baber, who was a juror during Davidson's trial, was called to testify in Davidson's bid for a new trial.

Davidson is one of four defendants accused of abducting and brutally slaying Channon Christian and Chris Newsom in 2007.

The attorneys' motion contained allegations that the jury in the first trial held a religious praise service while deliberating his death sentence.

The post-trial filing said an unnamed juror blogged about the service. The person claiming to be a juror wrote that out of the five-plus hours spent deliberating, four hours were spent in prayer and reading the Bible.

Baber was called to explain what happened. He said he was a praise leader at his church and during the trial asked a court officer if he could hold a service to "cheer up" the jurors.

"The officer said she could not make it mandatory," Baber said. "And that was okay with me."

He said he could not recall if all of the jurors participated in the service, which lasted about 25 minutes.

Baber was asked if jurors prayed or made any references to the hymns that were sung in the service when jurors began their deliberations. He said he could not recall that happening.

Baber's testimony did not corroborate what was written in the blog.

Attorney David Eldridge told Judge Walter Kurtz the jury considered more than just the evidence in the trial when reaching their verdict and their emotions were impacted by the worship service.

The judge didn't buy the argument. He didn't allow the anonymous blog to be used as evidence, which was to be used as proof that religion was improperly used in deliberations.

It is a decision Channon and Chris's families agreed with.

"I thought it was a very good decision. I think Judge Kurtz has a grasp of reality," said Hugh Newsom.

A ruling on the motion for a new trial will be made next week, Judge Kurtz said.

The victim's families hope justice will be served.

"Two great kids and we miss them terribly and we feel that we may have justice real soon," said Mary Newsom.

"Next week is not the end, we'll be going for many many years," said Gary Christian.

The victims families have plans to talk to lawmakers to prevent this from happening to others. 

They say they have a right to a speedy trial and that seven years in and out of the courthouse is too long.

Davidson was convicted of first degree murder in 2009 and sentenced to death. That conviction was set aside and a new trial ordered after the judge at trial was found to be abusing prescription drugs during the trial.

Additional legal wrangling has sent Davidson back to court to again request a new trial.

Two other defendants, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas were also granted new trials by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. State prosecutors are also fighting the judge's ruling in their cases.

The fourth defendant, Vanessa Coleman, was found guilty of 13 of 17 charges prosecuted in her November 2012 retrial.

She will be sentenced February 1. In her original trial she was sentenced to 53 years in prison.

Judge Kurtz said in December he hoped to make a decision on all three defendants' motions for retrial by the end of January.

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