Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Despite being hospitalized twice and losing weight due to stress, Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood says he won't quit.
"I'm not a special judge. I'm just an old, senior judge. I'm not asking for sympathy," said Blackwood at a hearing regarding whether or not he would step down from the Christian Newsom case.
"I intend to be captain of this ship and to run this ship," he declared.
Last week, Blackwood ordered new trials for Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas for the second time. The state Supreme Court vacated his original order for those three. They upheld the order for a retrial for Vanessa Coleman.
Prosecutors had asked him to step down filed their motion after learning via email from Blackwood that he intended to order the new trials again and would not hold a hearing. The Supreme Court mentioned recusal, if Blackwood felt he was no longer impartial, when it remanded the case.
The District Attorney General's Office said it has"grave concerns" that Blackwood is not being impartial, adding that his "heedless determination to grant new trials is inexplicable."
"When I saw the motion to recuse, I got up and did three cartwheels," said Blackwood, indicating that it would finally give him a chance to air his views. Blackwood then said he realized he'd only embarrass himself and the court system.
According to Blackwood, the Supreme Court decision does not call for him to step aside.
Blackwood said the email was intended to address the families before word spread on the Internet. He said he was trying to protect the innocent who would be hurt by leaks.
"We judges are subject to the same pressures as everybody else," said Blackwood. "There's been way too much emotions and passions that have made decisions in this case difficult."
"We are on virgin territory," said Blackwood, calling the case unprecedented.
In December, Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood ordered the retrials after an investigation found Baumgartner was abusing pills acquired from a drug court graduate.
When ordering the new trials last week, Blackwood said witness credibility is so important to the case that he cannot, as the successor judge, perform the duties of the thirteenth juror. Therefore, Blackwood said he is calling for the new trials per the instruction of the higher court which mandated that "(s)hould the successor trial judge determine that he is unable to perform this duty... (it) obligates him to grant the defendants new trials."
"I failed miserably to keep this from becoming a circus."