Vanessa Coleman on Day 3 of her retrial.
Until Thursday afternoon, most of the witnesses prosecutors have called to the stand in Vanessa Coleman's controversial retrial have been law enforcement officials, friends of Channon Christian and Coleman, and Christian's family members. As expected, that evidence set the stage for jurors to hear, in Coleman's words, what happened the day in January 2007 when Lemaricus Davidson's actions resulted in Christian's murder.
Coleman sat subdued in court as prosecutors played an audio recording of an interview Knox County Sheriff's officials did with her after they arrested her in Kentucky on January 11, 2007-- three days after Christian's death.
In that interview, Coleman told investigators she had been back in Kentucky since January 2. They told her she was lying & they knew she was in Knoxville the weekend of January 6-7, when Christian and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, were kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered. Defense attorney Ted Lavit raised the issue that Coleman was 18 when the interview was done, and had waived her right to an attorney. Coleman was released from custody after the interview, but remained a person of interest in the case until later that month.
Christian's family was understandably visibly upset as the interview played, although they have previously acknowledged they have anticipated this trial would be equally as difficult to sit through as the trials for the other suspects in the killings have been.
Next, Knox County Assistant District Attorney Leland Price and, Cheryl Cox, an associate of Coleman's defense attorney Ted Lavit, read the transcript from Coleman's federal grand jury testimony taken in late January 2007, before Knoxville Police arrested Coleman. Coleman changed her story in this testimony. She admitted she was in Knoxville the weekend Christian was killed, that she saw Lemaricus Davidson bring Christian into the Chipman St. home on Saturday night, and that Christian was alive for hours before she saw Davidson start to kill Christian on Sunday afternoon.
"Letalvis was watching me to make sure I didn't go in to the back. Instead, I went back there anyway, sir. At that time, when I went back there I seen him, taking her neck like this, sir. And he was choking her, sir," said Coleman to the grand jury in 2007.
"Where were you in the house?," asked an interviewer.
"I was in the front of the house, sir," said Coleman.
"You said you saw him choking her. Who is him?," the interviewer asked.
"Yes sir. Lemaricus," answered Coleman.
In that grand jury testimony, Coleman also said she saw Davidson get trash bags, a trash can, and pour bleach in Christian's mouth, and she assumed Christian was dead.
Obviously entering that old testimony into the record for this trial is prosecutors using Coleman's own words against her.
Knox County Medical Examiner, Dr. Parnika Mileusnic-Polchan, took the stand around 4 p.m. Thursday. Jurors saw, for the first time, photos of Christian's and Newsom's bodies.
Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan went on to explain how Newsom died; he was shot multiple times, including in the head, and his body was set on fire.
"What's visible here is the right arm, the shoulder, and some of the ligatures, and then a lot of extraneous and extra material," explained Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan
Then she told the court Christian ultimately suffocated to death with a bag over her head in a trash can, after sustaining hours of torture and rape.
"Everything is done very carefully so we don't disturb the evidence, and how the body was discovered. So, Channon's face is completely actually covered with the white plastic bag, which, right there you can tell, had she survived, all the other things that we are concerned about, this is something that she certainly could not have survived," said Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan.
The medical examiner's testimony doesn't show that Coleman played a role in Christian's death, but it conveys to the jury how horrific Christian's final hours were.
The jury must now consider that information along with evidence the court heard earlier from Coleman's 2007 federal grand jury testimony; that she saw Davidson bring Christian in to the Chipman St. house, that she saw Davidson choke Christian, and that Davidson threatened to kill Coleman if she left to get help.
In total, 11 witnesses took the stand Thursday, including the reenactment of Coleman's 2007 grand jury testimony, bringing the total to 45 witnesses since this trial started on Tuesday.
Channon Christian's parents, Gary and Deena told 10News during Thursday's lunch recess that they are grateful for the outpouring of support they have received as they sit through Vanessa Coleman's retrial.
Witness testimony has continued after lunch. Cell phone company representatives have taken the stand discussing use of cell phones belonging to witnesses, suspects and victims involved in the case. The Knox County Medical Examiner is expected to take the stand sometime during the afternoon to talk about the cause of Channon Christian's death.
Vanessa Coleman is in a Knox County court for day three of her controversial retrial. She is being prosecuted again for her role in the murder of Channon Christian.
Prosecutors began the day by calling some of Coleman's friends from Kentucky to the stand. Some of the testimony supports prosecutors' claims that Coleman has changed her story several times about when she left Knoxville in early January 2007, thus trying to cover up her knowledge of Christian's murder. Coleman's defense attorney, Ted Lavit, didn't challenge that.
For the third day this week, Coleman calmly sat with her defense team during testimony. Thursday morning, cell phone company representatives took the stand to talk about calls made to and from Christian's cell phone on Sunday, January 7.
Before that though, the jury heard from two of Coleman's friends: Stacy Lawson and Natosha "Blue" Hays. Both women said they met Coleman through Coleman's boyfriend, Letalvis Cobbins. Both women said they also took trips between their homes in Kentucky to Knoxville with Cobbins and George Thomas. Lemaricus Davidson and Cobbins have both been previously convicted in the murders of Christian, and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom. Thomas was previously convicted of kidnapping Christian and Newsom.
Lawson said she drove Cobbins and Thomas, along with Coleman, to Knoxville at the end of December 2006. Lawson said she returned to Kentucky alone on January 2, one week before Christian's murder, then next saw Coleman and Cobbins sometime after January 7. Lawson told the court to this day she has no idea how Cobbins and Coleman got back to Kentucky from Knoxville in early January.
Knox County Assistant District Attorney Leland Price questioned Lawson about a conversation she had with Coleman after Coleman returned from Knoxville to Kentucky.
"Did you have a conversation with Vanessa Coleman in the car?," asked Price.
"Yes," replied Lawson.
"All right, what did you all talk about?," asked Price.
"Um, I basically asked her how they got back and when they got back," replied Lawson.
"And what did she say?," asked Price.
"She told me she didn't know. She told me she didn't know what I was talking about, that she came back with me. And I was like, 'No you didn't. Now when did you all get back, and how did you all get back,' and she just kept saying the same thing to me," replied Lawson.
"Which was what?," asked Price.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I came back with you," replied Lawson.
Lawson is the same woman who led police to Cobbins and Thomas in Kentucky several days after Christian and Newsom's bodies were found in Knoxville on between January 7-8, 2007. Coleman was a person of interest then, and was arrested a couple of weeks later.
So far the jury has heard from 37 witnesses over the past two and a half days. It is unclear how many more there are to go.
Coleman only faces charges related to "facilitating" crimes against Christian, not for committing her murder. A jury acquitted Coleman of crimes against Christian's boyfriend, Chris Newsom, in 2010. She can not be retried for those charges because of the state's double-jeopardy law. Coleman is being retried because the judge who presided over her initial trial has since plead "guilty" to official misconduct for abusing prescription pills while on the bench.
Day 3 of the Vanessa Coleman retrial began Thursday morning with testimony from Stacy Lawson, a friend of Vanessa Coleman's from Kentucky.
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.
On Day 2, the jury in Vanessa Coleman's retrial 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.
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.