Torture-Slaying Hearing Reveals Alleged Racial Statement by Defendant

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel, November 20, 2009

A hearing today revealed a statement attributed by police to torture-slaying suspect George Thomas in which he cursed one of his alleged victims.

Knox County Sheriff’s Office Detective Nevil Norman testified today in a hearing in Criminal Court that Thomas told him “(expletive) that white girl, she don’t mean nothin’ to me. You cops come into my neighborhood and kill us. Why should I get involved in something that is none of my business?”

Norman said the statement was made after he had turned off a tape recorder he had been using to record an interrogation of Thomas on Jan. 11, 2007, in Lebanon, Ky., where Thomas had been arrested.

He said after the interview was over he allowed Thomas to smoke a cigarette. While Thomas was smoking, Norman said he asked Thomas if he should have called someone about what was going in the Chipman Street house where Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were held hostage before they were killed and Thomas gave that statement in reply.

Norman said he was “shocked” by the statement but did not write it down for more than 17 months when he met with prosecutors and revealed the alleged statement to them.

Prosecutor Leland Price asked him to write a memo about the statement. That memo was dated June 24, 2008.

Defense attorney Tom Dillard questioned Norman, a veteran detective, on why he would have failed to document such a shocking statement.

Norman never directly answered. He noted only that there was “so much other stuff in this case we were trying to get organized I just didn’t write it down.”

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Thomas is set to stand trial Dec. 1.

He is facing the death penalty in the January 2007 carjacking, torture, rape and murder of Christian, 21, a University of Tennessee student, and Newsom, 23, her boyfriend and a trim carpenter.

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All of the defendants are black and the victims are white, but police and prosecutors have said race was not a factor in the crimes.

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[Editor’s Note: Detective Norman’s statement can be downloaded here.]

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