Thomas Guilty on 38 Counts: Jury to Consider Punishment Today in Death Penalty Case

Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville News Sentinel, December 8, 2009

The same jury that deemed George Thomas criminally responsible for the January 2007 slayings of a Knox County couple today will return to decide his fate.

The seven-woman, five-man jury from Hamilton County took less than seven hours to return a sweeping set of guilty verdicts Tuesday against Thomas for the litany of crimes committed against Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.

Those convictions included first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape.

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Thomas is the third of four defendants convicted in the case. Ringleader Lemaricus Davidson was sentenced to death after his October trial. Davidson’s brother, Letalvis Cobbins, escaped death after his August trial and instead was sentenced to life without parole.

Unlike Davidson and Cobbins, who faced a mountain of forensic evidence, the case against Thomas seemed in jeopardy at the outset. Prosecutors had no DNA, no fingerprints and no eyewitnesses. Thomas had conceded he was inside Davidson’s Chipman Street house where the couple was held captive but insisted he did nothing more than smoke marijuana and bide time until he could leave.

Dillard and Johnson contended Thomas’ presence and failure to act was not enough to meet the legal requirements of the criminal responsibility law, which allows a defendant to be rendered equally guilty of crimes committed by another if he or she benefited from the crimes and either aided or attempted to aid the perpetrators.

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Each of the defendants in the case have blamed the others. Davidson said Thomas and Cobbins were the killers. Cobbins blamed Davidson as the instigator but also accused Thomas and suspect Eric Boyd in the killing of Newsom. Boyd has not been charged in the slayings. Suspect Vanessa Coleman, who could face trial next year, blamed Thomas in Newsom’s slaying and Davidson in Christian’s death. Thomas blamed Boyd, Davidson and Cobbins.

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