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New trials for Knoxville torture-slaying defendants

December 1st, 2011 4:09 pm by Staff Report

New trials for Knoxville torture-slaying defendants

KNOXVILLE — A special judge today granted new trials for four defendants in the 2007 torture-slaying cases, agreeing with lawyers that presiding Judge Richard Baumgartner's conduct led to fundamental structural flaws in the prosecutions.
Jon Kerry Blackwood, his voice at times rising to a shout, said Baumgartner was obviously intoxicated in 2009 and 2010 while Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman were being prosecuted.
Baumgartner used defendants under his influence to procure pills to satisfy his habit, Blackwood said, citing a TBI investigation. He engaged in sex with one defendant, Deena Castleman, who helped him satisfy his drug habit, driving her around in his car, taking her to Chattanooga during jury selection for one of the torture-slaying defendants, and lying on her behalf after she tested positive for drugs.

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