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Defendant demands speedy retrial in Knox double torture-slaying case

Staff Report • Jul 12, 2012 at 4:11 PM

KNOXVILLE (AP) — One of the men convicted in the torture slaying of a young Knoxville couple five years ago is invoking his right to a speedy trial.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/PSEpaA ) reported an attorney for George Thomas has filed a motion asking that Thomas be retried soon. The legal move comes as the Knox County prosecutor seeks to block new trials for Thomas, Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins.

"The potential additional delay that the state could continue to cause in this case through multiple extraordinary interlocutory appeals certainly impacts all of the dangers with respect to unconstitutional delay enunciated by the United States Supreme Court," wrote Thomas' attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson in his motion.

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood ordered new trials for the three after it was revealed the trial judge was abusing prescription painkillers during the time the trials were conducted. The prosecutor is not contesting a new trial for Vanessa Coleman because then-Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was visibly disoriented on the last day of her trial.

The victims of the crime were 21-year-old Channon Christian and 23-year-old Christopher Newsom, who were kidnapped, tortured and killed in January 2007.

The Tennessee Supreme Court faulted Blackwood's decision that Baumgartner's actions outside the courtroom deprived the defendants of fair trials but allowed room for him to conclude witness credibility was so important that he could not fulfill the "13th juror" function of a trial judge. Blackwood did so and again ordered retrials.

Thomas' trial is scheduled for October.


Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

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