After only 10 hours of deliberations on Monday August 24th and Tuesday August 25th, 2009, a jury of 12 people - half of them Black - found Letalvis Cobbins guilty of felony murder against Channon Christian. This is a death penalty-eligible verdict. The jury convicted him of facilitation of first degree felony murder in 32 counts. But the jury also found Cobbins not guilty of five counts including the murder of Newsom during his rape, the murder of Christian during Newsom's rape and three counts of aggravated rape of Newsom. Full initial stories from the Knoxville News-Sentinel and WATE Channel 6.
The verdicts were read before a courtroom packed to standing room only, including the Christian and Newsom families and a whole row of Cobbins family members. Judge Baumgartner then polled the jurors individually to confirm the verdict. To minimize the possibility of a confrontation between the affected families, the Cobbins' supporters were hustled out of the courtroom immediately after the verdicts were read.
WBIR Channel 10 provides a complete line-by-line rundown on all the verdicts HERE.
WBIR Channel 10 also published a great background story showing exactly what the jurors had to grapple with. Jurors had to wade through the 46 individual counts that make up the state's case against Cobbins. Each count included a long list of lesser offenses for jurors to consider if they didn't find Cobbins guilty of a higher charge. The 41-page verdict form, a blank version of which you can view HERE, reads almost like a test in school. Jurors are asked to circle one--Guilty or Not Guilty--on each count.
The separate 92-page charge to the jury can be read HERE.
The penalty phase will begin on Wednesday August 26th, where they will consider evidence about whether or not Cobbins should be executed. First, the victim impact statements will be read, then prosecutors would try to show his crimes are so heinous he deserves death, while defense attorneys would try to counter with mitigating facts. Cobbins' final fate could be determined as early as the close of business on Wednesday.
In reaction, Deena Christian characterized herself as "very relieved and very grateful". Gary Christian also expressed gratitude to the jury for seeing the truth, and further stated, "I was saying the day that they found her in that house, I promised my daughter that I would see who did this to her in hell. This is the second step. We've got a long way to go and a lot more to deal with.". Gary also admitted that during the trial, when Cobbins testified that Channon offered oral sex to him in exchange for help escaping, "I was gone, brother. I was on my feet. What stopped me was my wife had a hold of my britches. It reminded me that I needed to sit down." He predicts Cobbins will be sentenced to death.
In a related story, 900 people have been summoned for the first attempt to form a jury for the upcoming trial of Lemaricus Davidson, scheduled to begin on September 21st. The jury pool will come to the Civic Coliseum on Tuesday, September 1st to fill out questionnaires.
-- Knoxville News-Sentinel: Torture-slaying trial, Day 8: Jurors convict Cobbins of first-degree murder.
-- Knoxville News-Sentinel: Torture-slayings trial, Day 8: Cobbins guilty; jurors to consider death penalty.
-- Knoxville News Sentinel Photo Gallery from verdict announcement.
-- WBIR Channel 10: Guilty: Cobbins eligible for death penalty; sentencing Wednesday (this story up to date despite the headline).
-- WBIR Channel 10: What to look for in Cobbins verdict.
-- WATE Channel 6: Letalvis Cobbins found guilty in Christian - Newsom murders.
-- WATE Channel 6 Video: Cobbins hears verdict in double murder trial.
-- WATE Channel 6 Video: Families react to guilty verdicts for Letalvis Cobbins.
-- WVLT Channel 8: LIVE BLOG: Cobbins guilty of 1st deg. murder, most other counts; eligible for death penalty.
-- Michelle Malkin: Horror in Knoxville update: Cobbins guilty of 1st degree murder (one of the few national bloggers to have covered this event).
-- 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