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Christian-Newsom – Battle Lines Are Drawn


When those young, bright adults were brutally tortured and murdered in January 2007, I doubt anyone would have predicted, least of all the families, friends and prosecution, we would still not have justice for Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.

Yeah, yeah, I know the mess began to unravel when former judge Richard Baumgartner admitted to drug use.  Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood granted him a diversion and allowed him to keep his pension.  In the meantime, Baumgartner was holding the trial results hostage by not signing-off as the ’13th juror’ while he worked out a deal for himself.

Then came the damning TBI investigation report and we all know what a firestorm that created!

After the screaming match at the June 14 hearing, when Blackwood refused to recuse himself, he said he would review the transcripts for the Davidson and Cobbins trials and allowed his order for a new trial for Thomas.  That decision was to be made August 17 and Blackwood also said he would issue a decision on recusal in October.

Then comes another flip-flop!

The state filed another motion for recusal on July 24 citing the new law that went into effect July 1.  The law requires a judge to decide on recusal motions before taking any steps on other issues in the case.

The scheduled hearing to decide on those new trials was postponed Friday and Blackwood held a hearing on Monday regarding the second motion for recusal.

ADA Leland Price argued rather vehemently, “At this point, Your Honor, it doesn’t matter what your ruling is, it can’t stand, it won’t stand. If you rule for us, we can’t win. Later on, it’s going to be overturned because of Your Honor’s actions and our repeated filing motions to recuse and your track record of giving in to public furor about this case. There’s no way we can win in this situation. Your Honor’s rulings, at this point, can’t be trusted.”

The defense attorneys for the four defendants took issue with the state’s motion and basically said the state’s unrelenting attacks on Blackwood were unwarranted.

Blackwood listened quietly to arguments and then ruled, without explanation, he was denying the motion to recuse, then announced the court was in recess and left the bench.   He did indicate he will issue a written ruling regarding his decision.

It’s anybody’s guess when Blackwood will take up the issue of the retrials again, however George Thomas is demanding a speedy trial and wants the trial to begin in October as originally scheduled.

The AG must now decide whether or not to appeal to the appellate court.

At the same hearing, Letalvis Cobbins asked the judge to remove his attorney, Kim Parton, from his case.

“This is 283 times we’ve been here, standing right here,” said Hugh Newsom, father of Chris Newsom. “It’ll be six years in January of next year. Right now, what do we have?”

Sadly, the toll this is taking on the Newsom and Christian families is very evident.  Take a look at the video on WBIR.

The only thing we are certain of is Vanessa Coleman is scheduled to be retried November 12.




  1. Jo
    08/21/2012 at 3:50 pm

    I am tearing up as I write this. We have all said we cannot fathom what these parents are going through but I watched the video and my heart is truly breaking. They have aged so much I did not even recognize them. They look like they are barely holding up. This is an arrogant judge who will NOT be told what to do. Unlike other trials where we have seen judges recuse themselves just not to have even the slightest doubt of impropriety. What has he to lose by doing so? Who will think less of him? This is just awful.

    • donchais
      08/21/2012 at 4:49 pm

      I’ve said it before and will say it again…this is only about an over-blown ego!

      Blackwood has turned this into a pissing contest and Leland Price is absolutely correct in saying…even if Blackwood sided with the prosecution, nobody wins due to the protracted period of time appeals will add to this case.

      The mental and emotional toll on the families and friends has been beyond appalling. The physical toll becomes more and more apparent as each week passes.

      I am fearful some of the family members may not survive long enough to see this horrific ordeal through to a proper outcome.

      Then, the only retribution will be how Blackwood, on HIS deathbed, will be able to reconcile the havoc he and his ego caused, for a second time, for these kids, their parents, siblings and friends, as well as those of us who only want to see justice.

  2. David In TN
    08/21/2012 at 7:03 pm

    This morning (Tuesday) I heard a brief radio interview with Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield. She said the judge is looking at Chattanooga for a jury pool, which was used for Thomas last time. Blackwood is also thinking of going to West Tennessee for a jury.

    The defense has been calling for the trials to be moved out of Knoxville completely and according to Satterfield, Blackwood is considering it.

    • donchais
      08/21/2012 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks for the info David…my bigger concern is that Blackwood is still in charge and has no sense of reality as to what needs to be done…we could move the trials to Bora Bora and as long as he holds the reigns…there will be no justice!

  3. ritanita
    08/24/2012 at 9:10 am

    Donchais, I’m replying, better late than never.

    This is so gut-wrenching for the Newsom and Christian families. I watch the video and was appalled at how much they have aged in so little time.

    I agree with you that at this point it is all ego and politics. I know I’ve said that before, but it is still true and will be true until this is settled, if it ever is.

    My thoughts and prayers are always for the families. Not only are they the victims of the heinous crimes comitted by the four and possibly more, they are victims of a very flawed judicial system.

  4. donchais
    08/24/2012 at 9:53 am

    Sadly ritanita, with all the BS surrounding the legal posturing, there will be no winners here.

  5. Tori
    08/29/2012 at 2:02 am

    This breaks my heart. Completely. I’ve been following this story for years now praying that justice will be served. If they can’t convict these bastards then I have lost all hope in our judicial system, well, what I have left… I hope they rot in the gates of hell, right where they came from. The death penalty isn’t harsh enough for these creatures. They deserve to die a very slow, agonizing death and I hope to god that’s what they get.

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