Friday, December 11, 2009

Four Down, One To Go: George Thomas Found Guilty Of Murder, Etc. In Christian-Newsom Atrocity, Sentenced To Life In Prison In Knoxville

It seemed like national interest in the trials of the perpetrators of the Christian-Newsom atrocity subsided after the conviction of the two "heavies", Letalvis Cobbins and Lemaricus Davidson. But interest by the Christian and Newsom families remained unabated as they watched the fourth defendant to be tried, George Thomas, found guilty on all 38 related charges in the case, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The jury, consisting of one black woman, five white men and six white women (the five alternate jurors were two white men and three white women), had an opportunity to choose death, but they decided in less than two hours that mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors in the case, preventing them from returning a death sentence on December 10th, 2009. Just two days earlier, this same jury found Thomas guilty on 38 charges relating to first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape by the jury of five men and seven women after a six-day trial. WATE Channel 6 news video embedded below:

The case against Thomas seemed weaker than those of the other defendants at the outset. Prosecutors had no DNA, no fingerprints and no eyewitnesses. Thomas had conceded he was inside Davidson’s Chipman Street house where the couple was held captive but insisted he did nothing more than smoke marijuana and bide time until he could leave. Dillard and Johnson contended Thomas’ presence and failure to act was not enough to meet the legal requirements of the criminal responsibility law, which allows a defendant to be rendered equally guilty of crimes committed by another if he or she benefited from the crimes and either aided or attempted to aid the perpetrators.

But prosecutors Takisha Fitzgerald and Leland Price argued Thomas was criminally responsible by his presence and failure to act after he saw the victims brought to Davidson's house.

In reaction, Gary Christian, who clearly wanted a piece of both Cobbins and davidson in the previous trials, was a bit more restrained this time around. "He's going to get what's coming to him in his new life. But in my life, there is nothing but the death penalty," said Channon's father, Gary.

"We can't help but be greedy. We wanted it all...We didn't get a chance to plead for mercy for our children's lives", said Channon's mother, Deena.

"If they had heard what we'd heard, they would've given him the death penalty," said Chris' mother, Mary, while Chris' father Hugh said "There's statements the other defendants made that implicated him far more than what was heard in the trial".

When asked if they were concerned about the defense's acquittal motion, Deena said, "He's (Judge Baumgartner) just taking his time and making sure he does his job well." But Gary conceded that "He won't let that fool (Thomas) back out on the street,"

The one remaining defendant, Vanessa Coleman, will have her trial on May 10th, 2010.

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