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Monday, August 27, 2012

Defendant; George Thomas in Christian-Newsom case seeks U.S. Supreme Court review

Defense attorneys Tom Dillard and Stephen Ross Johnson are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal on behalf of their client, George Thomas, to decide whether a doped-up judge can deliver a constitutionally sound trial.
Thomas is one of four defendants convicted in the January 2007 torture-slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23. Those convictions were upended last year after a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe revealed the judge who presided over their trials — Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner — was himself a criminal, doctor shopping for pills, using a felon on probation in his court to get pills and using a graduate of the Drug Court program he helped found for both sex and pills. A News Sentinel investigation also showed Baumgartner was a longtime alcoholic with a history of failed rehabilitation efforts who also demanded pills from employees.
Baumgartner, spared jail on a state case and allowed to keep his state pension, now faces federal charges.
The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that Baumgartner’s misdeeds are not cause for new trials in the Christian-Newsom case, rejecting the defendants’ claim of “structural” or constitutional error.
However, the court did approve Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s decision that new trials are in order because he cannot step into Baumgartner’s shoes as so-called “13th juror” in approving the verdicts in the wake of pending motions for new trials.
Thomas, through Dillard and Johnson, believes the state high court was wrong to reject the “structural error” argument and is asking the nation’s top court to weigh in.  MORE

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