Christian, Newsom bills move forward at capitol

Two East Tennessee families torn apart by tragedy traveled to the state capitol Tuesday in an effort to change the way the state justice system works.

Chris Newsom and Channon Christian died seven years ago. The couple was carjacked, tortured, raped and murdered.

Lemaricus Davidson, Vanessa Coleman, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas were all convicted on state charges in connection to their deaths.

The Christian and Newsom families continue to mourn what they have lost. But, they say their entire experience in the courts only made things worse.

So, they have been pushing for the passage of two bills, both of which were passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

The first was the Chris Newsom Act, which would effectively do away with the state's "13th Juror" rule. That rule says a judge must validate the receipt and acceptance of a jury verdict by signing a document.

The families hope the Chris Newsom Act would cut down on retrials, like the ones they both had to endure.

"I just wanted to cry," said Mary Newsom, mother of Chris Newsom, as she recalled her experience in the courts to the committee. "I couldn't go through this again."

The second bill passed by the Senate committee was the Channon Christian Act. It would prevent defense attorneys from introducing allegations of previous behavior that calls into question the character of a victim.

"We don't want anyone else to have to go through lies like we did," said Channon's mother, Deena Christian. "The laws as they exist today protect the defendants."

Both measures will soon be scheduled for a vote in the Senate. One of the bills' sponsors, Senator Randy McNally, said he expects the House to take them up in two weeks.


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