The Knox County District Attorney General's Office is again asking Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood to recuse himself from the Christian-Newsom cases in a new motion.
And while the judge already has put off his decision on that until this fall, after he plans to decide whether to again grant new trials for two of the four defendants, the timing of this latest motion could force his hand in the matter.
The state has argued that Judge Blackwood can no longer fairly and impartially preside over the cases of Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas. The three are charged in the 2007 kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.
Judge Blackwood previously granted new trials for the three defendants, citing former judge Richard Baumgartner's admitted drug abuse, and later, after the Supreme Court reversed his decision, citing the 13th juror rule. Judge Blackwood, however, later set aside his decisions in the Davidson and Cobbins cases, too.
In the midst of those decisions, the state filed a motion asking Judge Blackwood to recuse himself. The matter came to a head at a contentious hearing on June 14.
That hearing forms much of the basis for the state's new motion, which was filed Tuesday afternoon.
And, because it was filed after new state rules went into effect July 1, the state is arguing that the judge must make a decision on the recusal before he can rule on any other matters in the Christian-Newsom cases.
"The State acknowledges that it has filed a prior motion to recuse, however, the present pleading represents a distinct and separate motion to recuse based on matters occurring subsequent to the filing of the first motion to recuse, primarily concerning the Court's statements at the June 14, 2012 hearing," the motion states.
The state argues that "recent admissions raise fresh concerns about the court's impartiality," citing testimony from that June hearing and a Web video of the proceedings from WBIR.
"Having now admitted to acting with bias and allowing public clamor and fear of criticism to influence its rulings, the unavoidable dilemma is that public confidence in the court's impartiality moving forward has been destroyed," the motion states.
Judge Blackwood's emotional reaction to the state's original motion to recuse is cited as another reason the judge should step down.
The document quotes the judge from that June 14 hearing as saying, "Now, when I saw this motion to recuse, I jumped up, did about three cartwheels, said, yeah, yeah, yeah. My time, my time, baby."
In Tuesday's motion, the state also argues that the judge has contradicted himself in his recent rulings.
The motion points to Judge Blackwood's order to remove certain motions, that previously had been filed, from the record while also instructing the parties involved not to reference them.
The district attorney's office also states it has been blocked from obtaining an audio recording of the June 14 hearing, while also pointing out that the order issued after that hearing appears to be in direct conflict with what the judge said during the hearing.
"The corrected order appears to be in direct conflict with what transpired at the hearing," the motion states. "Nowhere in the hearing does the court indicate it was not ruling on the issue of recusal. Nowhere does the court suggest it was taking the matter on advisement or that there would be further hearings on the subject. Instead, on multiple occasions, the court was very clear it had made its decision and there would be no recusal."
Judge Blackwood set a hearing on the previous motion to recuse for October.
But, because he also set an August 17 hearing for his decision on whether to grant new trials for Davidson and Cobbins, he may have to schedule a hearing on the latest motion to recuse to come before that in order to comply with the new rules.
And, while the new motion to recuse also includes the George Thomas case, Judge Blackwood has previously said his decision to grant Thomas a new trial still stands.
Also, none of the recent motions or appeals have involved Vanessa Coleman. Her new trial is still set for November