Torture-slaying sentencing: Davidson will not testify in penalty phase; judge makes history with cost ruling
Davidson isn't taking the stand.. blah blah blah!!
Meanwhile, Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner ruled today that for the first time in Knox County judicial history he will instruct Davidson's jury that it is more expensive to execute someone than to sentence them to spend the rest of their life in prison.
At the request of defense attorney Doug Trant, Baumgartner said that he will tell jurors that a 2004 study by the state Comptroller's Office concluded that execution is a more expensive form of punishment than life without parole.
Prosecutors Leland Price and Takisha Fitzgerald contested the decision to no avail. They argued that such a move has never been authorized or approved by any appellate court and could unfairly prejudice the jury.
Trant confirmed that such an instruction has not been given in any other Knox County capital murder case. It was not immediately known if any other judges in the state have allowed similar rulings.
The judge also, over the state's objection, is merging all the murder counts, which essentially forces the jury to determine punishment for only one murder count for each victim.
Price argued that should an appellate court later determine fault with any single underlying crime on which the various murder counts are based the judge's ruling could result in the entire case being returned for a new trial.
Baumgartner insisted that he was doing nothing unusual in merging the counts.
"Obviously there is one murder (each)," Baumgartner said. "You can't have multiple murders. There are only multiple ways it can be accomplished. I think this is the appropriate way to handle it."
Jurors this morning got teary eyed as the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom discussed the impact the killings in January 2007 have had on their lives and showed photographs of the couple as they appeared before death.
The defense told jurors that Davidson was neglected and abused as a child and, by age 16, was a "lost cause."
However, they said the operators of a group home in Jackson, Tenn., where he spent nearly a year as a teenager will testify that Davidson responds well to a "structured environment" and could be a productive citizen if he is then locked up for the rest of his life.
The five-woman, seven-man jury spent roughly seven hours over two days before declaring Davidson guilty on Wednesday.
They deemed him guilty of the top count in 35 of 38 charges, ranging from the murder of both Christian, 21, and Newsom, 23, to kidnapping to robbery. They also found Davidson, 28, guilty of multiple counts of raping Christian.
Davidson's only reprieve - and it was largely irrelevant because of the murder convictions - came in the rape of Newsom. With no DNA evidence to directly link him to a rape that forensic evidence suggested was committed with an object, jurors opted for convictions of the lesser charge of facilitation of aggravated rape.
Today, prosecutors hope to prove aggravating circumstances to show that Davidson should die by lethal injection.
On the other side, defense attorneys Trant and David Eldridge look to pile so-called mitigating circumstances - reasons why they say Davidson should be spared death.
The jury's job will be three-fold:
n Decide whether aggravating factors, such as the heinousness of the crimes and prior criminal history, have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
n Determine if circumstances such as mental health woes, addictions or childhood abuse exist in Davidson's background.
n Then, weigh the two.
If the scales tip toward the aggravators, the law commands a death sentence. If the scales tip toward the mitigating circumstances, the jury then must decide between a sentence of life without parole and life, which carries a mandatory 51-year prison term.
The families of Christian and Newsom did not hesitate when asked what punishment they believe Davidson deserves following Wednesday's lengthy list of guilty verdicts, including convictions for first-degree murder.
"Both of our kids are dead, and he deserves nothing less," said Chris Newsom's mother, Mary Newsom.
Davidson is the second of four suspects to be tried. His brother, Letalvis Cobbins, was convicted in August and sentenced to life without parole.
Pending trial are suspects George Thomas, who will face a Hamilton County jury Dec. 1, and Vanessa Coleman, whose case is on hold pending a pre-trial appeal.
A fifth suspect, Eric Boyd, remains uncharged in the killings but is serving an 18-year federal prison term for hiding out Davidson after the slayings.
Hugh Newsom, Chris Newsom's father, who long has demanded all the cases be tried by Knox Countians, praised the jury and said Davidson's trial proved the community so enraged over the couple's death could fairly decide the suspects' fates.
"These jurors should be considered pillars of our community," he said. "They did an outstanding job. From now on, jurors (in the remaining cases) should be from Knox County."http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/oct/29/torture-slaying-sentencing-judge-makes-history-wil/