Out-of-town juries add taxpayers' costs

By: Mike McCarthy Email
By: Mike McCarthy Email

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The final jury pool for accused killer George Thomas has grown.

So has the price tag for collecting the out-of-town jury, which includes transportation costs, hotel expenses for the judge, court staff, and attorneys.

Judge Richard Baumgartner kept more than two additional additional potential jurors in the second day of individual questioning in Hamilton County.

Thomas is the third defendant going to trial for the kidnapping, rapes, and murders of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

"I think the jury should be chosen from the county where the crime was committed," Chris' mom, Mary Newsom, said.

Extensive pre-trial publicity prompted the jury selection in Chattanooga.

It's a move Knoxville defense attorney Bruce Poston says he'd like.

"I would want a jury from as far away as possible because the less they know the better, that's my opinion," Poston said.

Thomas is the second defendant in the crimes to get out-of-town jurors.

A Davidson County jury convicted Thomas' friend Letalvis Cobbins and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

However, a Knox County jury sent co-defendant Lemaricus Davidson to death, instead.

The Knox County District Attorney Generals Office won't comment, except to say it'd prefer a home-grown jury.

Any out-of-town jury also means extra costs. That buck gets passed onto you, the taxpayer.

Knox County records show driving Nashville jurors to and from Knoxville for Cobbins trial cost $1,900.

Cobbins jury selection travel claims for Judge Baumgartner and his assistant judge and his assistant alone totaled $1,679.34, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

Volunteer TV asked the A.P.O for travel claims from Cobbins' defense attorneys.

"Scott Green has not yet submitted reimbursement claims for the jury selection in Nashville," spokesperson Laura Click said.

Travel by the Knox County DA's office is paid by the county, but those numbers weren't immediately available.

Thomas' jury costs have just started piling up.

"That's part of this whole--a death penalty case is so prohibitively expensive when the state does it," Poston said.

"Anybody here in Knox County that pays taxes, ought to be angry about it," Mary Newsom said.

The Newsoms hope the costs make Thomas pay, at least with prison time.

"If you read the criminal responsibility law as it reads, he's just guilty of both murders," Chris' dad, Hugh Newsom, said.

Records show housing Knox County jurors sequestered for Lemaricus Davidson's trial was more expensive than Cobbins' trial, according the county finance department.

Davidson's trial also lasted longer.

Thomas' jury selection is expected to finish tomorrow.


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