Friday, August 21, 2009

TNB On Trial: Day Five Of The Letalvis Cobbins Trial In Knoxville; Medical Examiner Testifies Channon Christian's Ordeal May Have Lasted 24 Hours

Note: All posts on the Letalvis Cobbins trial available HERE; the most current post will appear first.

Update August 22nd: Title of post changed to reflect the fact the Cobbins' subesquent testimony now indicates Channon Christian may have been murdered on Sunday night rather than on Monday morning.

Day Five of the Letalvis Cobbins Trial in the Christian-Newsom murder case in Knoxville, TN featured graphic testimony by the Knox County Medical Examiner on the nature of wounds suffered by Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, along with the examiner's professional speculation on when key events took place and who might have perpetrated them. In addition, the prosecution rested its case, and the judge turned aside a bid by defense attorney Scott Green to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence.

Knox County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan described the results of her autopsies of both victims. First, she described Chris Newsom's body. At the scene, Newsom's bare feet were bound and his body was burned. His face was wrapped in a sweatshirt with a hole showing in it where Newsom was shot in the head. His hands were tied behind his back and he was gagged with socks.

He had been shot three times; in the upper shoulder near his neck, which disabled his arm; in the lower back, which nearly shattered his spinal cord; and in the head, which killed him. He was set on fire after he died. Additional bruising indicated that possibly hours before his death, Newsom was sodomized with an object. Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan estimated that it happened between 11:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. and he likely died in the early morning hours. She also believes that what was done to Newsom was probably "too complex" to be done by one person; he had no defensive wounds and was likely outnumbered and overpowered.

The cowardly Cobbins shielded his face from the autopsy photos.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan then described Channon Christian's body. She testified that she went to the crime scene where Christian was found in the death house on Chipman Street. She said Christian's bound body, clothed in only a sweatshirt and a camisole, was "crammed" in five large trash bags in a trash can in the kitchen. She was bound so tightly that her knees were touching her cheeks. Christian was alive when she was put in the trash can, and died from a lack of oxygen, or asphyxiation, anywhere from three to five minutes afterwards. She wasn't strangled, and her eyes were wide open.

Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan said Christian's body had accumulated blood, bruising and "lots of abrasions" indicating rape with blunt trauma and an object. She said so much blood had collected in Christian's genital region that she could literally scoop it out. Estimated sequence of events are that Christian was raped orally first by Cobbins, subjected to the remaining abuse by Lemaricus Davidson (at the very least), and eventually wrapped in the trash bags and put in the can. Christian was first injured Sunday afternoon, and finally died possibly sometime late Sunday or early Monday. This means Channon Christian's ordeal may have been as long as 36 hours. Update: Subsequent testimony given by Cobbins himself on August 22nd indicates Christian more likely murdered on Sunday night, reducing the length of the ordeal to around 24 hours. Doesn't mitigate the crime, but provides more clarity.

The cowardly Cobbins also shielded his face from these photos, too.

Shortly afterwards, the prosecution rested its case. Judge Baumgartner turned aside a bid by defense attorney Scott Green to have the case thrown out for lack of evidence. Cobbins himself is still unsure whether he'll testify. This afternoon, he first told the judge he won't testify, but then he later said he wants to "sleep on" the decision and will tell the judge his intent Saturday morning. Judge Baumgartner also said he expects to give this case to the jury on Saturday and there could be a verdict. However, he told jurors they'll have the option to deliberate Sunday if they choose.

After leaving the courtroom for a recess on Friday, the families of the victims talked about their thoughts while enduring the painful details. "Seeing the pictures of course, it was hard we knew it would be hard. We feel so sorry for these kids that they had to go through, what they went through, it was very brutal. The brutality of the crime just proves that there is more than just one person involved with the crime," Mary Newsom said. "Even if they got the death penalty, that would be too good for them, they deserve worse than that. They deserve the torture these kids had to go through."

Hugh Newsom said the medical examiner's description of his son's last moments as he walked to the train tracks was excruciating. "They made him walk barefoot on that cold night or morning before they tied his ankles with his own belt and then basically shot him in the back. That is a real coward. They are all cowards everyone of them."

"The coroner, she's a very intelligent lady," Deena Christian added. "We had seen the pictures but to hear her describe what happened just makes it worse. You just relive it all over again." But the families have been told by court officials to avoid showing emotion that could distract the jury. "We were told not to, if you believe that," Gary Christian said. "The jury needs to pay attention to the facts and evidence at hand so they've asked us to show as little emotions as possible. We have to protect the defendants, you know," Christian added sarcastically.

Two separate Knoxville News-Sentinel videos embedded below. The first is testimony from the medical examiner:

The second video is the afternoon of Friday August 21st, 2009:

Additional media links:

-- Knoxville News-Sentinel: Carjack/slaying trial, Day 5: Prosecution rests, jury could deliberate Saturday.
-- WATE Channel 6: Medical examiner describes victims' torture in Cobbins trial.
-- WBIR Channel 10: Cobbins' trial update: Cobbins could testify.
-- WBIR Channel 10 Video: Cobbins Trial Day 5: Graphic photos shown to jury.
-- WBIR Channel 10 Video: Cobbins Trial Day 5: Medical examiner testifies
-- WVLT Channel 8: LIVE BLOG: Cobbins' Christian-Newsom murder trial, day 5.
-- WVLT Channel 8 Video: 5:30 P.M. Report.
-- WVLT Channel 8 Video: 6:00 P.M. Report.

Discussion links:

-- VNN Forum: Channon Christian - Christopher Newsom Murder Trial Coverage
-- Stormfront: Live coverage of the Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom Trial
-- The Phora: Knoxville trials. Christian and Newsom

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