Judge orders new trials in Christian-Newsom murders

Saying he feels sorry for the families and all they

The retrial hearing for Letalvis Cobbins, LeMaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman gets underway.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.(WVLT) -- The four people convicted of the torture and killing of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom will stand trial again. Saying he feels sorry for the families and all they've been through, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood granted the defendants' motion for new trials Thursday afternoon following a two-hour description of Judge Richard Baumgartner's alleged drug activities, citing "structural errors" in the trials.

Hearings for the new trials are set for January 12 at 9:30 a.m.

Baumgartner, who presided over all of the cases, lost his license earlier this year after pleading guilty to drug charges. "I don't know whether you call it judicial corruption, stupidity, or arrogance," Blackwood said after laying out the allegations against Baumgartner. "I call it committing a crime."

"Baumgartner had a choice," he declared. "He chose pill taking."

Letalvis Cobbins, LeMaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman were convicted separately for their involvement in the carjacking, raping, torture, and killing of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom four years ago.

Blackwood said that without any doubt Baumgartner knew he was addicted, at least since 2008. Reports presented by the judge during the hearing indicated Baumgartner would receive dozens of hydrocodone every few days and was visiting several doctors. One woman claimed she would provide the former judge with 30 pills a week and had sex with him several times in Baumgartner's office.

According to a TBI file presented during the hearing, a doctor reportedly told Baumgartner in 2008 that he should resign, but he replied that he needed "three more years."

Attorneys for the defendants argued Thursday morning that Judge Richard Baumgartner failed to act as the 13th juror during the defendants' trials, while prosecutors countered that Baumgartner handled each of the cases carefully and his judgment was not impaired.

State's attorneys added that questioning this would put thousands of cases into doubt. Prosecutors warned that if the fact a judge was using pain medications as grounds for a reversal, that ruling could have "far-reaching implications."

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  • by DJG Location: Phila on Dec 20, 2011 at 12:01 AM
    The families of the victims should refuse to cooperate and maintain that it was all a hoax that their children are alive and well and living overseas. Do anything to stop a further prosecution. Pray the Defendants are released for lack of evidence and then take care of the matter themselves. Understand God helps those who helps themselves.....
  • by Lu Location: Knoxville on Dec 4, 2011 at 05:57 PM
    So will this judge allow into evidence that the kids where well known crack cocain users? They sold and traded everything they had to get high. If they were black the community wouldnt have gave his trial a second thought. Murder is wrong any way you look at it. Lets stop complicating this with race and stick to the facts.
  • by Racer Dave Location: Knoxville on Dec 2, 2011 at 06:20 AM
    I just thought of my new Halloween costume for next year, I'm gonna be judge Baumgartner
  • by Beth Location: Gburg on Dec 2, 2011 at 05:12 AM
    I think it's time for the people of knoxville to take a stand and 'OCCUPY THE COURT SYSTEM'......Everyone should gather in rally for this family and the jurors who made the decision final !!!!!! Who are they to overrule this decision ? What are they going to do..put everyone in jail....We need to support these families and stop this senseless use of taxpayers dollars....I thought the ecomomy was bad anyway. And since we are talking about drug testing Has THIS OTHER JUDGE BEEN DRUG TESTED? WILL HE BEFORE THIS TRIAL EVEN BEGINS ?....We certainly do not want another ERROR !!!!
  • by OldBikerLady Location: Knoxville on Dec 2, 2011 at 03:50 AM
    Problem is - taxpayer money gone to waste over the first trials. Next problem is - if found guilty again, their sentences can not be harsher than those of the first trial, which is a shame, because they ALL deserve the same treatment they gave those poor kids. And try and convince me it's not a hate crime.
  • by Valerie Location: Knoxville on Dec 2, 2011 at 01:15 AM
    What a shame the parents have to suffer through this ordeal again. I don't think that the conditions these 5 bags of garbage live in can be harsh enough. Save your sympathy for the victims and their grieve-stricken families. Baumgartner should be ashamed of himself.
  • by Anon Location: Knoxville on Dec 2, 2011 at 12:58 AM
    Did they drug test this judge?
  • by Tim Location: Maynardville on Dec 1, 2011 at 11:18 PM
    My comment is simple.They are guilty.They murdered that young couple.They should sell tickets for $1.00 each to the public to watch the Lions take care of them.
  • by warren record Sr Location: louisiana on Dec 1, 2011 at 10:33 PM
    The people who hold themselves fartherest above the law are the Judges.
  • by hazel Location: new market tn on Dec 1, 2011 at 06:26 PM
    I say h**l yeah ! now they should all get the death penalty, think positive people, bumgardner should not ever b able to even have anything to do with the judicial system again , never never


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