The death penalty will stand for the man convicted of masterminding the nearly decade-old murders of a young Knoxville couple carjacked outside an apartment complex in January 2007, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled.
Lemaricus Davidson raised several issues on appeal from his conviction in the Knox County Criminal Court case.
Senior Judge Walter Kurtz had declined to give Davidson another trial after his conviction in October 2009 before Judge Richard Baumgartner, who later stepped down in the midst of a substance abuse scandal.
The Supreme Court filed its decision Monday in a unanimous decision written by Justice Sharon Lee.
Davidson challenged, for example, the legality of a search warrant the Knoxville Police Department secured to go into Davidson's small Chipman Street home.
Channon Christian was raped and killed there hours after being carjacked Jan. 1, 2007. Her boyfriend Chris Newsom was taken away from the house soon after the kidnapping. The killers raped and murdered him and set his body on fire near railroad tracks.
Davidson argued the search warrant affidavit was flawed because the KPD officer who had prepared it failed to sign it. Defense attorneys raised the same issue at trial.
The unsigned affidavit went unnoticed by court authorities. Davidson argued that because the document was faulty, evidence found during a search of his home, including Christian's body, couldn't be used against him.
While recognizing that the affidavit was legally flawed, the state Supreme Court also found that the KPD officer had acted in good faith in preparing search documents.
It found the officer's failure to sign the affidavit called for a "narrow exception" to what's called the exclusionary rule, which addresses improper searches and seizure.
"The narrow exception adopted by the Court would apply when a law enforcement officer has reasonably and in good faith conducted a search within the scope of a warrant the officer believes to be valid but is later determined to be invalid solely because of a good-faith failure to comply with the affidavit requirement of Tennessee law," court authorities said Monday in a news release. "Based on the adoption of this rule, the Court held that the items seized during searches of Mr. Davidson’s house and DNA samples taken from him were admissible evidence."
When police went into Davidson's home with the search warrant, they found Christian's body in plastic bags in a garbage can in the kitchen. She suffocated because the killers tied a plastic bag over her head and face. She'd been beaten as well as sexually assaulted.
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Davidson's fingerprints and palm prints were found on some of the plastic bags in which she was found. Some of the victims' belonging were also found in the rental home, which since has been torn down. He also gave a girlfriend some of Christian's things and was found with Newsom's shoes.
Davidson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death after a 2009 Knox County trial.
Co-defendants Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman also are serving prison terms for their roles in the crimes. None received the death penalty.
Cobbins raped Christian and took part in Newsom's killing, and Thomas and Coleman were in the Chipman Street house at various times while she was being held.
Davidson has federal options of appeal for his convictions.