George Thomas granted new trial; motions denied for others

George Thomas granted new trial; motions denied for Davidson, Cobbins

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By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Senior Judge Walter Kurtz ruled Tuesday to grant a new trial to George Thomas, one of the four defendants in the Christian-Newsom murder case.

Letalvis Cobbins and LeMaricus Davidson, both of whom also requested new trials, were denied.

Judge Kurtz ruled that he was able to sit as thirteenth juror in both Cobbins and Davidson's initial trials.


View the Full Court Order


In the third case, however, the judge ruled that, "the Thomas case does involve an overriding issue, or primary issue, of credibility" because of the lack of evidence against him, including DNA evidence.

The new trial was granted because in his initial trial, former judge Richard Baumgartner was under the influence of prescription pain pills and eventually pled guilty to official misconduct.

In the judge's order, he wrote that he only gave Thomas a new trial because he couldn't sit as thirteenth juror, because he couldn't see and hear the witnesses who linked Thomas to the murders in the initial trial.

With the judge's ruling for a new trial for George Thomas, this will mark the seventh year and more than 300 times the victims' families have been in the courtroom.

"Of course we'll be there. We'll be there until we finally get the justice that we want," said Mary and Hugh Newsom.

Mary and Hugh Newsom want justice for their son, Chris. They were disappointed by the judge's order.

"I expected all three to be turned down for new trials, however I will say this is a partial victory," said Mary Newsom.

The judge denied Cobbins and Davidson's request for a new trial, writing that he could serve as thirteenth juror because the witness credibility was not a primary issue in the trial.

The judge even wrote that Davidson's argument that he had a consensual sexual relationship with Christian was nothing more than rank speculation and that evidence clearly points to Davidson as the murderer.

Legal Analyst Greg Isaacs says the evidence mainly linked the two to the crimes, not witness testimony.

"He focused on the fact that one of the defendants possessed a firearm. He relied heavily on the fact that there was DNA from both individuals that tied them to the crime scene," said Isaacs.

Isaacs says George Thomas' case was different. Witness testimony linked Thomas to the murders, so the judge couldn't serve as thirteenth juror because he could determine witness credibility without seeing and hearing them in person.

"Basically says there is no objective forensic proof tying Thomas to the crime. There's no DNA, no proof he had a weapon, etc. It's all witness credibility. So he said, 'I wasn't there, I couldn't see the witnesses, I couldn't judge their credibility,' so Thomas gets a new trial," said Isaacs.

The Newsoms hope in the new trial Thomas is again found guilty and the sentence remains the same.

The Christians said in a phone interview that they wanted the judge to uphold all three convictions and that they were upset to have to go through another trial.

In a statement from the District Attorney's office, prosecutors said they were glad the judge upheld some of the standing of guilt.

A date has not been set for the new trial. According to the State Administrative Office of the Courts, Judge Kurtz will preside over Thomas' trial.

The fourth defendant in the case, Vanessa Coleman, was also granted a new trial, which took place in November.

She was found guilty on 13 of 17 charges and is scheduled to be sentenced February 1.

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