Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood: Set Dates In Re-trial of four Convicted 'killers' of Christian-Newsome
Blocked on Thursday in their efforts to stave off new trials in one of Knoxville's most horrific crimes, state prosecutors are now expected to lob a hail mary pass to an appellate court.
Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price tried and failed Thursday to convince Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to grant what's known as an interlocutory appeal of Blackwood's decision last month to grant new trials to the four defendants in the January 2007 torture slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.
Normally, an appeal cannot be filed until a case has been tried and a final judgment entered. An interlocutory appeal, on the other hand, is one that challenges a ruling made in the midst of the case while it is still pending. Such an appeal can only be filed with permission of the judge presiding over the case and under limited legal circumstances.
June 11: Lemaricus Davidson
Aug. 27: Letalvis Cobbins
Oct. 22: George Thomas
Nov. 12: Vanessa Coleman
Price argued Thursday that Blackwood got it wrong when he ruled former Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner's drug abuse and other misdeeds robbed the torture slaying defendants of the right to a constitutionally sound trial. Unless an appeal is granted now — before the cases are retried — the state will lose its shot at an appellate review of the decision, Price argued.
"Essentially the trials would proceed and whatever the outcome of those trials, we're stuck with the outcome," Price said. "It's now or never for the state."
Blackwood said that short of appellate intervention he intends to finish new trials by year's end. He refused to move the trials out of Knox County but agreed to select jurors from outside the area. He has not yet decided from where to seek a jury pool.
Because jurors in the original trials rejected death as punishment in all but Davidson's case, he is the only one who still faces the ultimate punishment. The state is opting to try him first this time around. Because Coleman was acquitted of first-degree murder and instead deemed only a facilitator, she cannot be retried on the first-degree murder charges. Her attorney, Ted Lavit, asked Blackwood to set bond for her as a result. Blackwood did but at a figure — $1 million — Coleman is likely unable to post.