Appeals court upholds conviction, death penalty for ‘ringleader’ in Newsom, Christian murders

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Tennessee appeals court on Thursday upheld the death penalty and guilty verdict for ringleader in the 2007 murders of Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian.

Lmarcus Davidson was found guilty and sentenced to death for his role in the murders. Davidson has appealed multiple times to have the verdict and the punishment overturned, taking his case from the appeals court to the Tennessee Supreme Court and now back to the lower court of appeals.

davidson_011_82755
Lmarcus Davidson mugshot

In the ruling, Judge Norma Mchee Ogle wrote the majority opinion in which justices acknowledged some mistakes brought up by the appeal did happen along the way, but justices did not find enough reason to grant a new trial or change the punishment.

One such mistake raised by Davidson was that his defense team did not request a change of venue after extensive coverage of the case by media. The court agreed with a previous court’s finding there were performance issues by Davidson’s defense team — including that they should have asked for a change of venue — but that error was “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The opinion also found that a post-conviction court erred when they rejected the argument that a co-defendant’s testimony in another trial was irrelevant to Davidson’s case. That testimony came in 2019 when George Thomas testified that Eric Boyd pulled the trigger and killed Chris Newsom. Boyd was originally convicted in federal court as only an accessory after the fact, but after the Thomas testimony, Boyd was charged and faced state charges, where he was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences.

Davidson’s appeal argues that if the jury had known about Boyd, they would have given less weight to Boyd’s role in the crimes. But Judge Ogle writes that while this was an error, it was “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”

And as to mistakes by Davidson’s defense team, Ogle ruled that Davidson failed to prove those mistakes amounted to prejudice.

“Based upon our review of the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that
the post-conviction court erroneously determined that a co-defendant’s anticipated
testimony at another co-defendant’s upcoming trial was not relevant to the Petitioner’s
claim for post-conviction relief because the testimony would have invalidated one of the
four aggravating circumstances found by the jury to impose the Petitioner’s death sentence
for Mr. Newsom.” the opinion states. “However, we also conclude that the error was harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt. We agree with the post-conviction court that trial counsel were deficient
for not requesting a change of venue and that the Petitioner has failed to demonstrate he
was prejudiced by trial counsel’s deficient performance. Therefore, we affirm the denials
of post-conviction and coram nobis relief.”

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Davidson was sentenced to death. Cobbins, his brother, is serving life without parole. George Thomas is serving two consecutive life terms and his girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman, deemed a facilitator, was denied parole earlier this year after serving 30 percent of her 35-year sentence. Eric Boyd was convicted in state court and sentenced to two life sentences in prison.

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