Keeping you up to date on the ongoing trials in the case of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, the young couple brutally murdered in a racially-charged case in Knoxville, TN in 2007. My archives on the case are here. Yesterday, a jury found defendant George Thomas criminally responsible for the January 2007 slayings of the Knox County couple. They found him guilty of 38 counts involving first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape. Today, they decide his punishment in the death penalty case.
Thomas is the third of four defendants convicted in the case. Ringleader Lemaricus Davidson was sentenced to death after his October trial. Davidson’s brother, Letalvis Cobbins, escaped death after his August trial and instead was sentenced to life without parole.
Unlike Davidson and Cobbins, who faced a mountain of forensic evidence, the case against Thomas seemed in jeopardy at the outset. Prosecutors had no DNA, no fingerprints and no eyewitnesses. Thomas had conceded he was inside Davidson’s Chipman Street house where the couple was held captive but insisted he did nothing more than smoke marijuana and bide time until he could leave.
Dillard and Johnson contended Thomas’ presence and failure to act was not enough to meet the legal requirements of the criminal responsibility law, which allows a defendant to be rendered equally guilty of crimes committed by another if he or she benefited from the crimes and either aided or attempted to aid the perpetrators.
Even Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner seemed skeptical of the strength of the state’s case, reserving judgment — even now — on a defense bid to have the case tossed out for legal insufficiency of the evidence.
But Christian’s father, Gary Christian, said he, wife Deena Christian, and Newsom’s parents, Hugh and Mary Newsom, left the courtroom Monday after closing arguments confident that Thomas would be convicted.
“I think Leland Price and Takisha Fitzgerald … are brilliant,” he said after Tuesday’s verdicts. “I don’t think any of us … were confused about the outcome. We knew he was guilty. He knew he was guilty. This jury obviously knew he was guilty.”
“We’re very grateful to this jury,” Deena Christian said. “We just hope they can bring it home (in the penalty phase).”