Christian, Newsom families can wear buttons but not near jury

12:17 PM, Mar 25, 2013   |    comments
  • Channon Christian, Christopher Newsom
  • George Thomas listens to a hearing in court
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Family members of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom who choose to wear buttons with their pictures during the retrial of George Thomas must sit farther from the jury box and on the side of the courtroom behind the defendant.

That's was the ruling Monday of Judge Walter Krutz, who ruled on  close to half a dozen pretrial motions in advance of the retrial of George Thomas.

Thomas was granted a new trial in the 2007 torture, rape and murders of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom after it was determined the presiding judge in his first trial, Richard Baumgartner, was addicted to pain pills.

According to the state, during the previous trial, family members were permitted to wear buttons in support of the victims while sitting near the jury box in the gallery.

But they were required to remove them while on the witness stand.

Judge Krutz said he needed to weigh the families desires to show support for the victims, against the fear that the jury would be unduly swayed by a constant visual representation of Christian and Newsom.

His decision prompted the parents of both victims to leave the courtroom. They say they would prefer to forgo the buttons then be required to sit behind the defendant.

Family members were also upset that the judge excluded four postmortem crime scene photos from the new trial.

The judge will allow other crime scene and postmortem pictures to be shown during medical examiner testimony.

But Krutz said the ones he excluded would be prejudicial to the jury, prompting Mary Newsom to shout out "it won't be the same trial."

The judge did make one ruling that brought some relief to the families. He decided not to exclude a statement allegedly made by Thomas to a detective.

Thomas allegedly stated; "why should I get involved in something that's none of my business" during an interview with a detective about Christian.

The prosecution says it speaks to why Thomas didn't intervene and help Christian, elaborating that he saw her as "just some white girl," and nothing of value. The defense says it's evidence their client wasn't involved.

The defense also questioned the detective's credibility, pointing out the statement came to light seventeen months after the crimes.

The judge ruled the credibility of the statement was a question for the jury.

Thomas was not present in the courtroom Monday.

He is one of two defendants in the case that has been granted a new trial. Vanessa Colemen was retried and convicted a second time last year for her role in the crimes.

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