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George Thomas’ defenders want to keep medical examiner off witness stand

Thomas guilty on 38 counts: Jury to consider punishment today in death penalty case
  • By Jamie Satterfield  Posted December 8, 2009
The same jury that deemed George Thomas criminally responsible for the January 2007 slayings of a Knox County couple today will return to decide his fate.
The seven-woman, five-man jury from Hamilton County took less than seven hours to return a sweeping set of guilty verdicts Tuesday against Thomas for the litany of crimes committed against Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.

Those convictions included first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape.

Thomas, 26, showed no reaction to the 38 guilty verdicts. His defenders, Tom Dillard and Steve Johnson, left the courtroom without comment as the families of the slain couple hugged law enforcers, including lead Knoxville Police Department Investigator Todd Childress, and prosecutors Leland Price and Takisha Fitzgerald.

The defenders for a torture-slaying suspect facing a second trial on the same set of facts are looking to hindsight to give them a crystal clear vision for what should be kept out this go-round.

Defense attorneys Tom Dillard and Stephen Ross Johnson have filed motions in Knox County Criminal Court seeking to bar Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan from testifying and to prohibit prosecutors Leland Price and TaKisha Fitzgerald from making the same arguments used in the first trial of slaying suspect George Thomas.
Thomas was tried in December 2009 for the January 2007 kidnapping, rape and slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23. A jury whose members hailed from Hamilton County convicted him as a principal player in the crimes but rejected death as punishment.
Two years later, the judge who presided over that trial — Richard Baumgartner — became mired in his own criminal woes involving an addiction to opiate painkillers and a state court conviction of official misconduct for buying pills from a felon on probation in his court. Last year, a federal jury found him guilty of lying about the drug trafficking of his mistress, a graduate of the Drug Court program that he helped found. He faces sentencing in the federal case April 10.  >>>more<<<


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