State House passes Christian, Newsom bills

State House passes Christian, Newsom bills

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The Christian and Newsom families sit in the House chambers awaiting the vote. The Christian and Newsom families sit in the House chambers awaiting the vote.
Sponsor Rep. Ryan Haynes introduces the bills. Sponsor Rep. Ryan Haynes introduces the bills.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

NASHVILLE (WATE) - The Tennessee House of Representatives passed two bills Thursday morning named in the honor of Knoxville murder victims Chris Newsom and Channon Christian.

Christian and Newsom were brutally raped and murdered in 2007. What followed was an ordeal in the legal system of trials and retrials.

The "Channon Christian Act" clarifies rules regarding character evidence in trials, after Christian's parents said her character was unfairly attacked during the trials.

"The worst thing I ever did in my life was sit in that courtroom and listen to those two attorneys lie. Everything they said was a lie," said Gary Christian.

The "Chris Newsom Act" creates the presumption that a judge approves a verdict following a unanimous verdict.

The presiding judge in the original trials, Richard Baumgartner, had verbally accepted the verdicts, but did not sign a routine form accepting the jury's decision before being removed from the bench. The successor judge decided he could not sign it, even though he found no errors in the trials.

Each bill passed unanimously. The votes were met with a round of applause. The families thrilled about the laws named in honor of their children.

"We have to speak out for our kids because they have no voice," said Hugh Newsom.

The house gave the families a standing ovation. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ryan Haynes said these families deserved this in their fight for justice.

"I think they knew how emotional it was for these families, and I think all these lawmakers are saddened by what these families had to go through. It was quite frankly unacceptable, and I think the state of Tennessee owes them an apology," said Haynes.

The bills passed in the State Senate last month, but will no go back there for another vote because of a technicality. They will then head to Gov. Bill Haslam's desk for his signature.

The Christian and Newsom families say their work at the capitol is far from over. They plan on pursuing two other bills. One would require drug testing for judges, and the other is a bill that would allow photos of victims to be shown in the courtroom.

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