Deliberations to Begin Monday in Couple’s Kidnapping, Rape, Slaying

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel, August 23, 2009

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Davidson County jurors bused to Knox County Criminal Court last week to consider the fate of 26-year-old torture slaying suspect Letalvis Cobbins spent six days hearing testimony, viewing gruesome photographs and listening to hours of attorney arguments and legal instruction.

As the high-profile capital murder trial came to a close late Saturday afternoon, the panel opted to declare today a day of rest, agreeing to begin deliberations Monday.

The panel is one member short, however. A female juror earlier had disclosed a history as a sexual assault victim but insisted that experience would not keep her from fairly trying Cobbins in the January 2007 kidnapping, rape and slaying of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. However, after Friday’s graphic photographic evidence of the rape injuries the couple suffered, the woman bowed out. A black woman, she was replaced by a white male. That leaves six blacks, one Asian and five whites on the panel of 12 plus three white alternates.

Cobbins’ defense team of Scott Green and Kim Parton and prosecutors Takisha Fitzgerald and Leland Price had one last chance Saturday afternoon to argue their respective cases. Despite the unexpected testimony of Cobbins against his defense team’s advice, neither wavered from their original positions on Cobbins’ alleged role. Neither paid much heed to Cobbins’ claim that Christian volunteered oral sex in hopes he would free her.

Price made an oblique reference to it when he told jurors: “He rapes her and leaves her there for his brother, who had his fun. That is not the reaction of somebody that’s not going along with this crime. That’s the reaction of someone who is in it and criminally responsible for it.”

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Prosecutors have repeatedly pointed out that they can’t prove who did what in a crime spree that spanned more than a day and involved nearly every major felony on Tennessee’s law books–carjacking, kidnapping, rape and murder. Cobbins is the first of four to be tried. Also charged is his brother, Lemaricus Davidson, his girlfriend Vanessa Coleman and his pal, George Thomas.

Fitzgerald and Price contend it doesn’t matter which of the crimes Cobbins personally committed to qualify him as a killer worthy of a death sentence.

“He is criminally responsible for every single thing that happened,” Price said.

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[Editor’s Note: Additional stories on the Christian/Newsom murders are listed here. In particular, see Nicholas Stix’s early account here.]

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