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Stay of new trials ordered in Channon Christian - Chris Newsom cases as judge recusal battle continues

12:16 PM, Oct 3, 2012   |    comments
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New trials for three defendants in the Chris Newsom and Channon Christian murder cases are on hold while the Court of Criminal Appeals considers a petition to recuse a special judge from the cases.

Channon Christian and Chris Newsom were kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in January 2007. Since then, four defendants have been convicted in their deaths and later granted new trials.

An ongoing court battle has ensued, pitting the prosecutors against the special judge assigned to the case after former Judge Richard Baumgartner was disbarred in disgrace.

Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has repeatedly said he will not step down from the case, despite multiple requests and appeals. Prosecutors say Blackwood has become too emotionally involved in the case and can no longer serve as an impartial judge.

In the latest appeal, filed in the Court of Criminal Appeals, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper asks that Judge Blackwood step down from the case, and in the meantime, the new trials for Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas be placed on hold.

The move comes as a new appeal after a new ethics law went into effect in July.

In the new filing, the state argues "a reasonable person of ordinary prudence in the judge's position - knowing all the facts known to the judge - would find a reasonable basis for questioning the judge's impartiality, the trial court erred by denying the state's new motion for recusal."

In a decision filed Sept. 28, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay on the cases until further order of the court.

The court also found that a response from the defendants' counsel is necessary for the court's consideration of the appeal. Those responses are due no later than Monday, Oct. 8.

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