The jury in Vanessa Coleman's retrial has now heard from the first witness to place her in the Chipman St. house the weekend that Channon Christian was murdered. Up until Wednesday afternoon, much of the evidence that prosecutors have presented has not established that Coleman aided in Christian's killing; it's laying the ground work for evidence still to come.
Wednesday afternoon, more forensics experts took the stand to explain evidence they collected in the murders of Christian, and her boyfriend Chris Newsom. The state then called several people who knew or who had met some of the suspects the murders, including Lamaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, and Coleman.
One of those witnesses was Davidson's former girlfriend, Daphne Sutton. She told the court she went to the Chipman St. house on Sunday January 7, 2007 to get some of her stuff. She said Davidson gave her a plastic shopping bag full of clothes. Police later identified those as belonging to Christian. Sutton also said Davidson forcibly blocked her from going in the bathroom of the house, which she thought was strange.
"Was the door leading to the bathroom, was it open or closed?" asked Knox Co. Assistant District Attorney TaKisha Fitzgerald.
"St was closed," said Sutton.
"Did you hear anything in the bathroom?" asked Fitzgerald.
"I heard somebody in there. I didn't hear any voices or anything. Just somebody in the bathroom," said Sutton.
"And when you say you could hear somebody in the bathroom, what is it that you could you hear?" asked Fitzgerald.
"Objects moving around. Somebody was in there," said Sutton.
During defense cross examination Sutton told Coleman's attorney Ted Lavit that she never heard any screams nor did she hear water running in the bathroom.
When asked about Coleman's presence at the house that weekend, Sutton said she did not see Coleman on Sunday, but she did see her two days before on Friday. Sutton also said she had met Coleman at the house before that weekend.
Sutton talked about Davidson's history of domestic violence towards her. Davidson was previously found guilty of both Christian and Newsom's murders, and received the death penalty as a result. So, Sutton's testimony shows that she knew Coleman, but she's not sure if Coleman was in the bathroom, or the house, when she visited on Sunday.
Testimony on Wednesday ended at 6:30pm, with a woman who bought drugs from Davidson and transported him, and other friends, including Coleman between Knoxville and Kentucky.
So far, the jury heard 18 witnesses on Wednesday, bringing the total since the trial started on Tuesday morning to 33. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has said he expects the trial to last through at least the end of the week.
One other note: a member of the jury has fallen asleep during the afternoon sessions of court for the past two days. Judge Blackwood has spoken with attorneys in side bar conversations about it. There are four alternates who could be tapped tapped to step up if need be.
Day 2: Morning testimony
It's day two of the controversial retrial for Vanessa Coleman. It has been an emotional few hours of testimony, especially for Channon Christian's family. One thing to note: Prosecutors still have not presented any evidence that shows Coleman facilitated Christian's murder.They are still establishing that Christian, and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, were murdered in January 2007.
Coleman is facing retrial for her role in Christian's murder. She only faces charges related to "facilitating" that crime. A jury acquitted Coleman of crimes against Newsom in 2010; she cannot be retried because of Tennessee's double-jeopardy law.
Several witnesses took the stand Wednesday morning including family members of Christian and Newsom.
Coleman entered the court room, escorted by deputies, a few minutes after 9 a. m. Her demeanor was much different than it was on Tuesday. She walked in looking at the ground, but smiled at her parents seated behind her. On Tuesday, Coleman showed no emotion all day long.
Two Knoxville Police Department officers, who processed crime scene evidence for the Christian and Newsom murders, took the stand first. Their testimony followed testimony from more than a dozen expert witnesses on Tuesday. The officers identified evidence, including fingerprints from Lemaricus Davidson that were found on the trash bags Christian's body was wrapped in inside the Chipman St. house, and the trash can she was put inside, as an autopsy showed, before she died.
Even though it's been almost six years since Christian and Newsom's murders, seeing evidence related to the crimes on Wednesday was extremely tough for the couple's family and friends. Christian's dad, Gary's eyes filled with tears as he watched witnesses pull evidence, some of it belonging to his daughter, out of evidence bags.
So far, the Newsom and Christian families have watched Coleman's retrial from the gallery, but late Wednesday morning some were called to the stand.
Chris Newsom's mom, Mary, was up first. Prosecutors asked her to identify some of Chris's belongings and talk about the last day she saw him.
Deena Christian, Channon's mom, followed Mrs. Newsom. Mrs. Christian answered similar questions about Channon, and was asked about her reaction to the day she learned Channon had been killed.
"My daughter's dead. What do you do. We just sat around in disbelief, almost passed out. We went home, I guess. The last few days after that, I don't really remember. We just went through the motions. We had to bury our daughter," Mrs. Christian testified.
Wednesday's morning session concluded with another TBI forensics experts, and two employees from banks to which Christian and Newsom belonged.
As far as where prosecutors are headed with their case against Coleman, Monday, in opening statements Knox County Assistant District Attorney TaKisha Fitzgerald talked about a white cloth found in Christian's purse that forensics investigators also determined contained Vanessa Coleman's DNA. That could be introduced Wednesday afternoon, but it has not been admitted as of the noon lunch break.
Prosecutors have introduced several photos of Channon's belongings that police found in the possession of the suspects, including Vanessa Coleman. Deena Christian identified some of the belongings police found in Coleman's purse as Channon's lotion, perfume, and Channon's wallet. Inside the wallet, Coleman had switched Channon's photos and receipts for her own. The contents of Channon's wallet were later found during the investigation. Deena also identified an overnight bag, and some other clothes as Channon's. Prosecutors did not specify if those items had been found in Coleman's possession.
Since the trial began on Tuesday morning, 22 witnesses have taken the stand.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood has told the jury, a group of 16 chosen from Jackson in West Tennessee, that he expects the trial to last a week. The jury is sequestered in Knoxville for duration of the trial.
Testimony is set to begin Wednesday morning on the second day of the Vanessa Coleman retrial.
In 2010, a jury found Coleman guilty of "facilitating" crimes against Channon Christian.
Vanessa Coleman is being retried for her role in the murder of Christian after the judge who presided over her initial trial in 2010 plead guilty to "official misconduct" during that time and has since resigned from the bench.
Tuesday, Knox County Assistant District Attorney, Takisha Fitzgerald, started opening statements for the state at 9:30 a.m.. Colman's attorney, Ted Lavit, entered her plea of "not guilty on all counts." Testimony lasted until 6:00 p.m.
The parents of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom were in the courtroom. They have said they will be there for everyday of the retrial.
Wednesday is expected to be a longer day of testimony than Day 1.
We will be streaming the retrial on wbir.com. For updates, follow 10News' Hillary Lake on twitter at @HillaryLake.
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