Christian/Newsom families may be forced to sit behind accused killer

By: John Treanor
By: John Treanor

DOWNTOWN KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WVLT) -- The buttons are three inches in diameter.

Each with a picture, Channon Christian on one and Chris Newsom on the other.

A half dozen family members sat in the courtroom, those buttons close to their hearts. "They can't be there to represent themselves." Gary Christian recalled on Monday morning.

The families would take the buttons off before taking the witness stand and talking about the crime.

But that was 2009. This time around, Thomas second trial for the murder and kidnapping of Channon and Chris, will be different.

If they want to wear the buttons they can, but they will have to spend the trial sitting two rows behind the man police say helped in the grizzly crime.

The reasoning is simple, the defense attorneys cried foul. The pictures, they say, will impact the jury unfairly. Intimidate them into a guilty verdict.

The judge's solution was just as simple. The buttons will be allowed as long as the people wearing them are seated as far away from the jury as possible. Two rows behind George Thomas.

Thomas is serving a life sentence, convicted once of first degree murder in the 2007 kidnapping, rape, and murders. But the judge in that case was recently convicted of abusing drugs, which allowed Thomas to successfully appeal for a new trial.

Monday he successfully fought for more changes. The buttons are effectively gone. So to are a number of crime scene pictures that the defense say are so brutal and graphic they might sway the jury.

The family disgusted by those decisions. In a case with no physical evidence any change to what circumstantial evidence can be shown could drastically change the outcome.

Thomas' trial begins with jury selection in May.

---PREVIOUS STORY----
A hearing for George Thomas' retrial in connection to the Chris Newsom/Channon Christian murders got underway at 9:00 AM Monday, March 25, 2013.

This hearing is to address any pretrial motions.

Thomas asked for a re-trial since Richard Baumgartner resigned and was disbarred because of pill abuse while he was on the bench.

Channon and Chris were carjacked, tortured and murdered January 2007.

The trial date for Thomas is May 13. It will be held in Knoxville in the Division I courtroom.

The jury will be brought in from another county. The county that the jury will be coming from has not been released.

Vanessa Coleman has already been convicted in connection with the murders during a retrial. A judge ordered her to serve 35 years.

Two others, Letalvis Cobbins and LeMaricus Davidson have been denied retrials.

Follow Local 8 News reporter John Treanor as he tweets from the courtroom:
@newstreanor


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