After just three hours of deliberations, the jury in the Letalvis Cobbins case in Knoxville, TN pulled their punches at the last moment. Instead of returning the death penalty, which seemingly was justified, they chose to sentence Cobbins to life in prison without parole. The jury had three choices: Life with parole, life without parole, and death. Death required an unanimous verdict.
Before deliberations, prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald asked the panel of Davidson County residents to sentence Cobbins to die. "We asked you if you could sign your name to the verdict form sentencing the defendant to death," Fitzgerald said in closing arguments. "The time is now." Defense attorney Scott Green urged jurors to punish Cobbins by making him die in prison. "Make him suffer for every day of his life for what he did," Green argued.
Then came the impact statements. In his impact statement, Gary Christian said his daughter had "a beautiful face, a beautiful smile and a beautiful heart." He said she loved her friends and family dearly and was protective of her older brother. "The last thing she said to me was, 'I love you'. We think about her every day. We think about her every minute... .We have sought a doctor to seek help for the hate we live with," Gary said.
In her impact statement, Deena Christian said her daughter loved her brother, Chase. She was so proud of him. She would follow him all over the country to watch him pitch baseball. Channon "had so much love to give," Deena said. "She loved camping, golfing, four wheeling and hanging out with her friends."
Cobbins himself was also represented. His three sisters Misha Davidson, Laquitta Boddie, and Lakedria Davidson (oldest to youngest) all gave impact statements of their own. They painted a picture of a broken home headed by an abusive father. All of them described the pernicious and intimidating influence of Lemaricus Davidson in the home. A couple of cousins also chimed in.
Then the jury retired for deliberations. Three hours later, they emerged with the verdict - life without parole. However, we don't know which jurors wanted death and which wanted life, because they were not polled afterwards. Furthermore, Judge Richard Baumgartner said the jurors' names and the sentence will be sealed, but he will unseal them some time in the future. So we don't know whether or not it was the black jurors who pushed for life over death. The judge set a separate date of November 20 to sentence Cobbins in other crimes in this case. Knoxville News-Sentinel news video embedded below:
Afterwards, both the Newsoms and the Christians expressed disappointment in the life sentence, saying they did not get justice and that prison will be a country club for Cobbins, where he can get all the drugs and sex he wants. Gary Christian wonders what one has to do to get the death penalty in Tennessee.
It's unfortunate that this jury drew back and spared Cobbins' life at the moment of truth. But at least Cobbins will never walk the streets again, although Tennessee taxpayers will be supporting him the rest of his life. Cobbins showed his lack of genuine remorse and his desire to escape his share of the responsibility for Channon Christian's murder not only through the lies told during the interrogation, but also by his own testimony, in which he sought every opportunity to throw Lemaricus Davidson under the bus and market him as the "bad guy" (which undoubtedly he is). The strategy was intended to save Cobbins' life - and unfortunately, it worked, as the jury decided that mitigating factors superseded the heinous nature of the crime. The primary mitigating factor appeared to be that it was Davidson rather than Cobbins who committed the final acts on Christian leading to her death, and the jury wanted to distinguish between Cobbins and Davidson.
Nonetheless, Cobbins was still worthy of death in my opinion.
-- Knoxville News-Sentinel: Torture-slayings trial, Day 9: Victim's families: Jury 'let us down' with Letalvis Cobbins verdict.
-- WATE Channel 6: Cobbins gets life without the possibility of parole.
-- WATE Channel 6 News Video.
-- WATE Channel 6 News Video (after the verdict).
-- WBIR Channel 10: Update: Cobbins jury reaches sentence.
-- WBIR Channel 10 Video: Gary Christian's victim impact statement.
-- WBIR Channel 10 Video: Deena Christian's victim impact statement.
-- WVLT Channel 8: LIVE BLOG: Jurors give Cobbins life without parole.
-- VNN Forum: Channon Christian - Christopher Newsom Murder Trial Coverage
-- VNN Forum: Cobbins on stand: "I had oral sex with girl"
-- Stormfront: Live coverage of the Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom Trial
-- Stormfront: News Update Christian/Newsom Murders
-- Stormfront: SF Christian/Newsom Trials Audio Archive Thread.
-- The Phora: Knoxville trials. Christian and Newsom