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Vanessa Coleman found guilty of facilitating murder of Channon Christian

11:12 AM, Nov 21, 2012   |    comments
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Jurors have found Vanessa Coleman guilty on several counts of the facilitation to commit the first degree murder of Channon Christian.  She was also found guilty of facilitation to commit second degree murder.

Coleman was charged with facilitating the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Channon Christian.  Christian and her boyfriend, Chris Newsom, were killed in 2007.  Coleman was previously found not guilty for crimes connected to Newsom, so she cannot be retried on those counts. 

Christian's parents, Gary and Deena Christian, who have sat through countless hours of court proceedings related to their daughter's death, were pleased with the verdict.  

Deena called it "one for the good guys" and said that "Channon got a little justice."

They admitted they were a little nervous when the first count read was a not guilty verdict, for facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Kidnapping Chris Newsom. 

That was the only count related to Chris Newsom that Coleman faced this time.  Gary said it was unbelievable to him that the system could divide Channon and Chris.  He said they were together that night, until "one went to the railroad tracks, and one went to hell."  Chris was shot, and his body burned on railroad tracks near the Chipman Street house. Investigators say Channon was held in that house for more than a day, repeatedly raped by the three men previously convicted in the case, before she was left to suffocate in a trash can.

Hugh and Mary Newsom, Chris' parents, have also watched every moment of the court proceedings related to their son's murder. 

"I'm glad to hear the verdict.  I think it was a fair verdict," said Mary. 

"And we're glad that they did find her guilty concerning Channon," added Hugh.

Prosecutor Leland Price said he believes the verdicts are fair.  He gave 10News some insight on the not guilty verdicts.

"You know, I think on one of those, not guilty to facilitation to commit rape with one or more persons, I'm not privy to their deliberations, but it could be they didn't feel like we proved they were in there together with Channon Christian when they raped her," said Price.

Defense attorney Ted Lavit said the verdicts are a compromise, "We feel her sentence will be appreciably reduced to less than half of what she was facing. Vanessa's pleased at the prospect that she'll be a young lady when she finally receives her final freedom."

Read the jury form, with the jury's verdict marked

The counts and verdict:

Count 7. Not guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Kidnapping Chris Newsom

Count 8. Guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Kidnapping Channon Christian

Count 12. Guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Rape of Channon Christian

Count 16. Guilty of facilitation to commit first degree murder of Channon Christian in the Perpetration of Theft of Channon Christian

Count 18. Guilty of facilitation to commit second degree murder

Count 23, 24. Guilty of facilitation to commit aggravated kidnapping

Counts 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38. Guilty of facilitation to commit rape

Counts 42, 43, 44.  Not guilty of facilitation to commit aggravated rape of Channon Christian by anal penetration, oral penetration, or vaginal penetration

Count 46. Guilty of facilitation to commit theft in an amount of $500 or less

Those facilitation of first degree murder charges carry a sentence of 15- 20 years in prison.  Attorney and legal analyst Don Bosch says it's conceivable that Coleman could be sentenced to less time in prison, but she could also get more.  The sentence is up to Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who did not set a date for sentencing.

The jury, from Jackson, Tennessee, began deliberating Monday afternoon.  They worked for about two hours before breaking for the night, and resuming Tuesday morning at 8:30 am.  The court announced there was a verdict around 3:45 pm.

They were charged with making unanimous decisions on 17 counts against Coleman. The 17 counts have to do with the kidnapping, rape, murder, and theft of Christian between January 6-7, 2007. There are dozens of verdict combinations the jury can come up with, which means it could take them some time to reach unanimous decisions on the charges.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood will sentence Coleman, although that has not been set.

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