Life Without Parole: Jury Rejects Death Penalty for Letalvis Cobbins

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel, August 27, 2009

When members of the panel of Davidson County residents walked into a Knox County jury room Wednesday, they sat down before the proverbial scale of justice.

On one side, the jurors told Judge Richard Baumgartner, they piled on the legal reasons to take Letalvis Cobbins’ life: the heinous nature of the killings, the motive to rid himself and his alleged cohorts of a witness, and the many crimes that preceded the deaths of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom.

On the other, they explained, they stacked the legal reasons to spare his life: a horrific childhood, the pleas of his relatives and his alleged role as subordinate to an evil mastermind.

Three hours later, the panel’s members walked into Knox County Criminal Court and announced the results. The scales, they said, tipped in favor of sparing Cobbins lethal injection and allowing him instead to spend the rest of his life in prison.

“The aggravating factors do not outweigh the mitigating circumstances,” the jury foreman declared.

The jury of four black women, two black men, one Asian man, three white men and two white women then headed off to a hotel, where they’ve been sequestered for more than a week, to ready for a return trip to Nashville. They left in their wake a relieved Cobbins and angry Christian and Newsom relatives.

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Jurors next heard from a trio of Cobbins’ sisters and his cousins. All of them described his upbringing as chaotic. Although he had love and normalcy while being reared by a great aunt, she died when Cobbins was 13, they said. He wound up homeless and bounced between a drug-addicted mother and alcoholic father, they told jurors.

“I love my brother,” Misha Davidson told jurors. “He’s not a killer. It’s not in my brother to kill anybody. I’m so sorry to the families. Everybody looks at me and hates me for what happened. I know you hate his guts. But he’s my brother.”

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