Home > Crime > Vanessa Coleman Trial – Day 4

Vanessa Coleman Trial – Day 4


Random thoughts…

Amazingly, in 3 days, we have heard testimony from 43 witnesses!  We should hear from Dr. Darinka Mileusnik-Polchan, ME and the handwriting analyst in the next 48 hours.

Mr. Lavit has been particularly harsh with the female (civilian) witnesses.  In grilling Daphne Sutton, Stacey Lawson, and Natosha Hayes, he was loud, often tried to elicit hearsay and asked questions about Grand Jury testimony that deliberately twisted the facts.  Judge Baumgartner in fact, warned him.

Judge tells Lavit, 'go ahead and take me to Federal court'

We are still haggling over the supposed immunity offered to Coleman. Coleman signed away her right to custody right before she was interviewed by ATF Agent Bernard Waggoner in Knoxville.  The defense continues to attempt to throw Waggoner under the bus for violating Nessa’s rights and have gone so far as to inform Judge Baumgartner they will take the issue to Federal Court.  Baumgartner basically told them, ‘go right ahead’.  We learned to expect Dave Jennings of the US Attorney’s Office to testify on the immunity issue!

9:03 Vanessa Coleman, dressed in all black, is brought in.  She was carrying a pad of paper and an arm-full of documents.

9:10 Jury enters

Case in Chief continues…

First witness is Nevil Norman – Detective, Knox County Sheriff Department, Homicide Division, now retired.  He traveled to Kentucky to apprehend Thomas, Cobbins and Coleman.

At the Lebanon Police Department he interviewed Coleman with Chief Jones, Sheriff Hutchison being present.  They read her, her rights and she signed a rights waiver.

Coleman seemed normal and had no visible injuries.  They did not talk to her prior to reading her rights.

The testimony was recorded, but the tape cut in and out several times.  They play the tape and have provided written transcripts to the jury.  The jury is instructed that the audio is the evidence, not the transcript.

Jan 11th at 1:30pm was when the interview took place.  Coleman claims she come back from Knoxville on the 2ndLie!

Who did you see?  I went for the holiday.

Vanessa – Can I ask a question? Sure.

Vanessa – What’s going on?

That’s what we’re trying to find out.

Who did you stay with? Rome.

Where did you stay?  I don’t know.

You stayed at Rome’s brother’s house!

How did you get back?  Stacey got a Western Union and we came back.

Who came back?  All of us. Lie!

Ya’ll came back on the 2nd and you’ve been at the house you got picked up at everyday?  Everyday. Lie!

You saw why you were picked up on the computer.  I don’t know anything about it, I didn’t watch the internet. 

The tape is very hard to hear because of the audio quality as well as people talking over each other.

4 days ago on Sunday the 7th, you were in Knoxville at Lemaricus’s house and Daphne was there and she ID’d every one of you.  Vanessa is still in denial.

Tape ends.

Were you and the Sheriff and the Chief armed during the interview?  Yes.

Witness passed.

Lavit You spoke to Daphne and knew they were at the house on Sunday?  I didn’t interview Daphne but that’s my understanding.

So you went to Kentucky to find out what happened from the rest of them?  Yes.

The two men were arrested?  I don’t know who was arrested.

When you interviewed Coleman was she the last interview?  I believe Stacey was first and Vanessa was second.

Do you know what Vanessa’s age was at the time?  No,

Did you brief her before you turned the recorder on?  Yes, standard procedure.

What agencies where there?  ATF, Knoxville PD, Sheriffs Office, a bunch of agencies.

They were all working together – hand-in-hand?  Yes.

Norman released.

Judge – Ms. Coleman testified at the Grand Jury and we are going to hear the testimony by Mr. Price reading the questions and Ms. Fitzgerald will play Ms. Coleman by reading the answers.

This will be very lengthy!  I will not attempt to transcribe all of this, but will paraphrase.

She claims Davidson and Thomas came back after being going out for about an hour and both looked nervous.  She saw blood on both of their shirts.

Thomas and Davidson put their shirts in the washing machine.

Coleman was in the living room.  Davidson went into the bedroom where Channon was tied-up.  Vanessa claims she heard Channon say, ‘Stop, don’t do that’.

So, that kind of proves you can hear voices from any room in the house doesn’t it!!!

On Sunday, she was in her bedroom and heard a man show up but didn’t see him.  She heard him talking to Thomas, Davidson, and Cobbins.  She said the man was Eric Boyd, she recognized his voice.

So, that kind of proves you can hear voices from any room in the house doesn’t it!!!

Vanessa said Daphne came to the house while she was in the bathroom and Channon was still in the bedroom.  Vanessa heard and recognized Daphne’s voice.

So, that kind of proves you can hear voices from any room in the house doesn’t it!!!

She claims she saw Lemaricus choking Channon in the back bedroom.  She had a top on, but no clothing below her waist.  Thomas was in the room also.

She says then they were in the kitchen and Davidson was spraying bleach in Channon’s mouth and then tied her in a fetal position and put her in garbage bags.

Gary is visibly angry and rocking in his seat, staring at the back of Coleman’s head.

This is pitiful how Vanessa paints herself as totally innocent of any wrongdoing!

Bernard Waggoner is called.  ATF agent, criminal investigator the defense keeps trying to throw under the bus on the immunity issue.

Jan. 10 2007 he heard other agents talking about the case and that’s how he found out about it.  That night he was sent to Kentucky to round up the suspects.  On the 11th they went to Stacey Lawson’s and they spoke to her and she was not honest to start with, but within a few minutes she told them where the rest of the group was.

They went to Natosha’s house and surrounded it.  They announced their presence and Natosha and Vanessa came out, then Cobbins.  Thomas wouldn’t surrender till they entered the house.

Suspects were taken to the Lebanon PD.

He describes searching Hayes’s house.  They found a box under the bed in the utility room.  When they opened the box there was a hair bow in it.

They also found the red pocketbook on the headboard.  There was a wallet with Cobbins picture, makeup a number of items including a journal!

They also removed the computer from the house.

They found no weapons or ammo.

The evidence was taken to Knoxville on the 11th.

On the 12th they received a call from Natosha saying she found a gun in her house.  Waggoner went to the house and retrieved the weapon.

Waggoner identifies photos of Hayes’s house.

11:44 The Judge sends the jury to lunch because they need to have a hearing outside of their presence.

Dr. Larry Miller – handwriting expert who analyzed Coleman’s journal!!!!! Professor Criminology East TN State.  He has done document examinations for 28 years.  He is accepted as an expert witness.

He has a significant CV.

Lavit asks about his training, which is also extensive, and he is accredited in several areas.

Testify for the FBI?  No

Postal Service?  No, they have their own document examiners.

OMG!  Lavit asks what textbooks he’s read.

He examined the journal – it had red, green, and blue ink writings.  He compared the journal to a written letter.

Miller identifies the handwritten letter by Coleman that he used as the standard for comparison.  He also identified the journal.

Miller concluded the journal was freely written and written fluidly.  The same is true with the letter.  It was fairly easy to make a comparison.

He identifies the report he prepared.

Shocker (not)!  The journal was definitely written by Coleman.  On the scale of comparison it was at the highest end!

Yikes, they have some of the writing on the screen and she did write about the Chipman Street house!  How nuts can you be?

A conference at the bench.  They never came back on record but I did hear the Judge tell Dr. Miller he would be called after lunch!

I wonder if Vanessa’s father will still proclaim her innocence after the journal evidence is laid out in court!

1:03 Vanessa walks in smiling!

I so wanted to smack that smile off her face!

1:08 back in session and the jury is brought in.

Waggoner returns to the stand.

He describes the journal he found in Coleman’s red purse and identifies it.

While in Kentucky he helped search Stacey’s car.

The next morning he helped take Thomas and Cobbins to the Federal court.

His participated in the last Federal search warrant issued for 2316 Chipman Street.  They collected Channon’s pink heels in the back bedroom closet, a bleach bottle, and items of clothing.

They found some bullet holes in the wall of the living room and in the ceiling tiles.  They found two 22-caliber bullets in the bathroom sink trap.  TBI Crime Unit was working with them taking measurements and photographing the scene.

Fitzgerald shows him the evidence items and he identifies them for the court.

On Jan. 17th did you participate in an interview with Vanessa Coleman?  Yes, it was prior to her appearance in front of the Grand Jury, which is standard procedure.

Coleman arrived with her mother and sister.  Coleman agreed to be interviewed, but wanted her mother with her.

He started questioning her about the two people who were killed.  He knew the layout of the house and Vanessa said she and her boyfriend sat on the couch when Channon was brought in.  Vanessa said she couldn’t hear anything in other parts of the house.  Waggoner knew she was lying.

Waggoner asked Coleman’s mother to talk to her to get her to tell the truth.

Now Coleman tells Waggoner that she did see Davidson snap Channon’s neck.

Were any promises made to Vanessa?  No.

On Jan. 19 they met again in the DA’s office.  This time her father was there.  She said basically said exactly what she said on the on the 17th.

On the 25th he found out she had been identified as a witness by the media.  Waggoner told her ATF would put her up in a hotel.  She agreed, but wanted to go home and pack clothes.  A bit later Vanessa and her mother were driven to Knoxville.  The conversation was cordial.

Cobbins, Davidson, and Thomas were in custody at the time of the interviews?  Yes.

ATF provided a hotel room for Vanessa and her mother.

On Sunday, the 28th Vanessa said she wanted to go home to Kentucky and signed an affidavit declining protective custody.  Her mother also signed the affidavit.

She also signed a rights waiver to remain silent and her mother signed as a witness.

Is providing a hotel room normal?  On rare occasions, but I was doing what my Supervisor instructed me to do.

Mr. Coleman drove from Kentucky to Knoxville ATF to pick them up.

At the ATF office they again tried to interview Vanessa because the felt she still was withholding information.

Vanessa was read her rights and she went into the same story she had told before.  Waggoner talked to Linda Coleman again to ask her to get her daughter to tell the truth.

Any promises made?  No.

When Greg Coleman arrived Waggoner asked Greg to talk to his daughter that he agreed to do.

They again try another interview with Vanessa and she now revealed that she had touched the female and made statement about her boyfriend.  This is when Waggoner got a tape recorder.

Sounds to me the proper waivers were executed and all the legal bases were covered so the immunity issue doesn’t exist!

The tape of the interview is played for the jury.

Jan. 31 Waggoner went with other officers to pick Vanessa on an outstanding arrest warrant.

Pass the witness.

Lavit on cross.

Did you interview Vanessa on the 31st?  Yes.

Did you tell her she was under indictment?  No.

Did anyone else tell her?  No.

Isn’t that strange? No sir.

Lavit is in nasty mode and asks to approach the bench.

Did you ask questions at the interview?  I made a statement, but I didn’t ask questions.

Lavit is hammering on the interview from the 28th.

Lavit implies that Vanessa was forced to sign the waivers.  Waggoner says she was not forced, they asked her to sign which she agreed to do because it releases the ATF from liability.

Did you tell Vanessa she would be charged with murder?  No.

You think Vanessa was withholding information then?  I still do.

Lavit is now asking questions but combining information from several interviews so the questions are entrapment of sorts and can’t be answered.

Did she at any time tell you she put her clothes in a garbage bag, tried to flee, and was brought back at gun point?

It could only have been on the 17th if she did and I would have to read through my notes.

All kinds of objections from the prosecution and tempers are flaring!  Even the Judge is holding his head!

Perhaps cocktails are called for and then we can have a real barroom brawl!

Wisely, the Judge calls a break to let things simmer down!

The Judge says Lavit can ask anything he wants, but he needs to identify the particular statement he is referring too to help the jury, prosecution and himself.

2:55 back on record

Lavit again visits whether Vanessa tried to escape on the 7th from Chipman Street.

Fitzgerald asks what interview.

Lavit says the 31st.

Waggoner says he was there for some of it, but not all.

Lavitt rattles off several pages of the transcript where Waggoner asked questions.

When you failed to remember and you look at the document and find you left out the answer, does that make you a liar?  No.

Did you give Vanessa a cell phone while she was in protective custody?  No.

Did Vanessa say they were having trouble at the hotel and there were people were outside the window?  Yes, but her mother said she was just being silly.

Isn’t that why Vanessa wanted to go back home?  No, sir.

Were you aware Vanessa had been assaulted when she tried to leave?  No, I was not aware of that.

Lavit is doing his darndest to get Waggoner to say Vanessa is not a liar.

OMG!  Lavit is just out of control!  He wants Waggoner to provide physical evidence that Vanessa participated in binding and killing Channon and that she guarded and controlled Channon.   By no stretch of the imagination was it up to Waggoner to provide physical evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, etc.

The Judge just warned Lavit to watch it!

Lavit asks what he knows about the Feds immunity offer.  Waggoner knows nothing about that.

When you searched the house of Natosha Hayes is that where you find the red purse?  Yes.

You didn’t search the whole house?  No sir. Ms. Hayes had the constitutional right to limit the search and she didn’t want her daughter’s room searched.

Here’s the search permit is there an exclusion?  No.  Ms. Hayes verbalized and I heard her.

So you didn’t conduct a full search?  It’s illegal for me to search when I have been told not to.

Mercifully Lavit finally sits down.  Fitzgerald will redirect and I’m bleeding from both ears!

Note: both the pros and def have Feds sitting at their tables advising them on the immunity issue!

Takisha wants to replay the 50-page interview tape.  Judge says he was afraid of that and says they have all tried his patience today.

The tape is just shy or 2 hours!  The Judge says they can play some of it, but he will only allow them to go till 5:30 today and the rest will have to wait till tomorrow.

This probably means the Case in Chief will not be over tomorrow!

He says the grumbling from the audience needs to stop, he will handle it.

At the flip chart Takisha lists the interviews and notes:

1/17 – 9:05am notes -Vanessa never says she was threatened

1/17 – 11:40am notes -Vanessa says Eric Boyd is at the house late Saturday into Sunday as well as Davidson, Thomas and Cobbins

So, 6 people are in the house. If those 4 males leave the house, how many people are left? 2, Vanessa and Channon.

They start the Jan 31 tape…this is the one police interview with Vanessa that was released to the public.

5:09 Judge calls it a day.

Whew, tomorrow I ‘m suiting-up in full body armor!

Categories: Crime
  1. Anonymous
    05/06/2010 at 7:35 pm

    Great work on trial coverage.
    Thank you for this.
    Hopefully the prosecution will use your technique proving that
    V. Coleman could hear everything that went on in that house.Just one
    phone call and she could have saved a life – possibly two lives.

  2. donchais
    05/06/2010 at 8:19 pm

    Anonymous :

    Great work on trial coverage.
    Thank you for this.
    Hopefully the prosecution will use your technique proving that
    V. Coleman could hear everything that went on in that house.Just one
    phone call and she could have saved a life – possibly two lives.

    Thanks! I have the luxury of being outside of the box. Its not technique…just observation, but if it is helpful, than so be it!

  3. ritanita
    05/06/2010 at 9:51 pm

    Oy! You had quite a day with this trial. Big kudos today for Waggoner. If Mr. Lavit (and I’ll stop there) thought he was going to rattle this guy, he was sadly mistaken. So far his bully-boy tactics have not pushed a single witness over the edge. Perhaps Lavit ought to consider using a more subtle method to try and get people say what he wants them to.

    More kudos for Ms. Fitzgerald today as well.

    “So, 6 people are in the house. If those 4 males leave the house, how many people are left? 2, Vanessa and Channon.”

    The simple math there tells you Vanessa is the world’s biggest liar. Well, that and all her conflicting statements.

    I can’t wait for her to take the stand. She talked oh so little girly in those interviews and Waggoner didn’t lean on her ala Lavit. I’m betting the prosecution is going to push her and push her till she shows her true colors.

    See you at the trial tomorrow!

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