House unanimously passes Christian-Newsom bills

(WBIR) Two bills named for Channon Christian and Chris Newsom passed unanimously in the state House of Representatives. When the bills passed Thursday morning, state legislators gave a standing ovation.

The Channon Christian and the Chris Newsom acts will now go to the governors desk for approval; Gov. Haslam said he supports both measures.

Last month, state senators passed both bills unanimously as well, along with an amended version of the Channon Christian Act.

In 2007, Channon Christian and her boyfriend Chris Newsom were carjacked, tortured, raped and murdered in the home of Lemarcuis Davidson, who has since been convicted twice in the couple's slaying, in addition to Vanessa Coleman, Letalvis Cobbins, and George Thomas. Rep. Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) sponsored the two bills after their case was retried.

The Chris Newsom Act would eliminate the need for a judge's signature on a jury verdict after a unanimous verdict is delivered. The '13th juror' rule stipulates a judge must validate the receipt and acceptance of a jury's verdict by signing a document.

Christian and Newsom's case were retried after Judge Richard Baumgartner's prescription pill addiction came to light before signing off on the verdict in each of the four defendants' trials. When Judge John Kerry Blackwood took over the cases, he ordered retrials. Blackwood said he was unable to perform the "13th juror" duty because he wasn't present for the original proceedings.

The Channon Christian Act would prevent defense attorneys from bringing up allegations of a victim's past that are not related to the case.

The victims' parents said they hope these bills will leave behind a legacy honoring their children.

"Every time something comes up in a courtroom that the district attorney stands up and quotes the Channon Christian Act, they're never going to be forgotten ," said Gary Christian.

Gary Christian told 10News last month that these bills are just the beginning of their efforts to improve the judicial system.

"We're going to spend the rest of our lives trying to make it better," said Christian.


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