Home > Crime > Christian-Newsom, 5 Years Out

Christian-Newsom, 5 Years Out


Saturday, the Christian and Newsom families held private memorials at the gravesites of their beloved children.  Five years have passed since the horrific and brutal events led to the ultimate deaths of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, yet justice for the victims and their families still seems as elusive as it did in January 2007.

Trials for the four defendants provided graphic and horrendous details of the carjacking, torture, rape and murders of the two young adults; ending their bright and promising futures.  Lemaricus Davidson received the death penalty, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas received life sentences and Vanessa Coleman was given a 53 year sentence for the facilitation of Channon Christian’s death.

In March 2011, we learned Judge Richard Baumgartner admitted to drug addiction and was disbarred, but was granted a diversion, (drug rehab) by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, a move that left Baumgartner’s pension intact.

Fast forward to December 2011 when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released its report regarding the illegal activities of former judge Baumgartner and all hell broke loose.  See Christian Newsom Murders – Arrogance and Addiction Creates Pain And Anger

Back to Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood –

Blackwood was assigned to hear appeals by the four defendants, requesting new trials, citing Baumgartner’s drug abuse.  In a move that stunned most, Blackwood capitulated, overturning the convictions and granting new trials.  His justification was based on the 1,200-page TBI report.  Blackwood reduced that report to 19 pages where he detailed much of Baumgartner’s criminal activities – activities that occurred off the bench and scheduled a January 12 hearing to set new trial dates.  See Baumgartner’s “sordid” illegal activity detailed

It was apparent during his ruling that Judge Blackwood alternated between, disgust, defeat, and anger.

On Thursday, ADA Leland Price filed an appeal of Blackwood’s ruling in which he made some sound and solid arguments.

While the DA’s office agrees that Baumgartner didn’t live up to the standards of his office, Blackwood did not present any proof that Baumgartner’s criminal behavior outside the courtroom, in any way, shape or form, affected or impacted on the trials or defendants.

The State also questions, if Blackwood’s ruling is to stand, what long-reaching impact will that have on the legal system?  Would this mean the State would have to conduct pretrial investigations of every judge, before trial?

The State also addressed the monetary and emotional issues connected to allowing new trials.  See State files appeals of Christian-Newsom retrial

The state requested a stay in all proceedings until the appeals court has time to review them and make a decision.


My first reaction to Blackwood’s ruling was, ‘wow, he really is pissed at Baumgartner!’  That quickly changed to, ‘bet he’s more embarrassed and pissed-off at himself for granting Baumgartner a ‘diversion’ that left his pension intact!

So, was the overturn of the convictions and granting new trials a knee-jerk reaction on Judge Blackwood’s part?

I watched all the trials.  The witness testimony, as well as the DNA and forensic evidence were enough to convict each and every one of the defendants.  The juries apparently felt the same way and that is a fact you cannot escape.

Jurors from the Davidson trial came forth and said they saw no erratic behavior on Baumgartner’s part and he always appeared professional and kind in his dealings with them.

I, personally, noticed nothing overt in Baumgartner’s behavior – no slurring of words, no erratic behavior.  In fact, at times when he seemed to be daydreaming or preoccupied, he would suddenly spout case law to back up a decision, in an intelligent and scholarly fashion.

I will add, I did see the incident when Baumgartner laid his head on the bench.  I honestly attributed that to shear exhaustion from these trials; they sucked the life out of all of us.

No, I am not defending Baumgartner.  What he did was wrong and constitutes criminal behavior and he should have to pay for it.  But, the legal system, the taxpayers and most importantly, the families should not have to pay for it.

The State is absolutely correct – the appeals court has to review the trial transcripts and make a decision. 

That is, after-all, the way the system is supposed to work!

  1. ritanita
    01/08/2012 at 11:21 am

    Sigh, I’m first again! I totally agree with your op-ed article. I am anticipating the appellate decision and pray we are correct about the trials.

    What really bothers me is Blackwood’s reaction to the TBI report. While it was worse than what he expected, he already knew Baumgartner had serious problems and allowed him to conduct the trials. I’m off now to read the docs you linked. Thanks!

  2. donchais
    01/08/2012 at 6:06 pm

    Your continued support is always welcomed and appreciated!

    My biggest fear here is that all will be so gun shy and therefore paralyzed to act.

    Appellate courts are there for a reason…lets use them properly!

  3. George
    01/08/2012 at 10:16 pm

    Ritanita: You are always first because you have such cogent comments. Thanks Dochais foryour doggedness and when the appeals court reads the record, they will know that the evidence speaks for itself

  4. ritanita
    01/09/2012 at 8:18 am

    Thanks, George, for the compliment. I agree with you 100%

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