Third of four Christian-Newsom suspects convicted of first degree murder

7:16 AM, Dec 9, 2009   |    comments
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Video: Extended interview: Attorney Don Bosch on Thomas verdict

Video: Extended coverage: George Thomas verdict

  • George Thomas listens in court
  • Channon Christian, murder victim
  • Chris Newsom

Jurors in the George Thomas double-murder trial found Thomas guilty of first degree felony murder Tuesday afternoon, making Thomas eligible for the death penalty.

He was also found guilty of all rape, robbery, kidnapping and theft charges.

The verdict was read around 2:00 p.m. to a less than packed courtroom.

The judge decided to send the jury back to their hotel for the rest of the day and begin the sentencing phase of the trial on Wednesday.

Defense attorneys moved for the Judge Richard Baumgartner to acquit Thomas, and the judge said he will reserve judgement on that motion. 

"Those guys had to prove there was a crime, and they had to put him in the crime.  And that's exactly what they did," said Gary Christian, Channon Christian's father, about the prosecutors.  "We knew he was guilty, he knew he was guilty and that jury damn sure knew he was guilty."

"This was a much better jury that understood the actual workings of the criminal responsibility law," Hugh Newsom said.  "The previous jury from Davidson County never understood that law."

"We'd love the death penalty but we'd take life without parole," Deena Christian said of the upcoming sentencing phase in a post-verdict news conference.

"They took our kids lives away and I think we feel we should take their life away too," Mary Newsom added.

Jury questions

After the Christian and Newsom families shared their victim impact statements with the court on Tuesday morning, Judge Richard Baumgartner called attorneys to the bench for two jury questions.

Judge Baumgartner would not read the questions aloud in the courtroom, but he did share his answers in open court.

"What I'm going to say in response to your question is one, criminal responsibility does apply to all counts of the presentment including count 17 and 18 which charge premeditated first degree murder.  As to question two, the best response I can give is to refer you to the language of the charge and I think what I'll say is to refer you to the language of the charge of premeditated of count 17 and 18 and criminal responsibility," Judge Baumgartner said as he informed the attorneys of how he was going to answer the jury.

The judge's staff and attorneys say jury questions can remain under seal for a period of time before they are made public.  Some jury questions can also be handled in the judge's chambers.

Previous coverage

Shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, 12 Chattanooga jurors went back to deliberating about the fate of George Thomas.

Prosecutors have pieced together a circumstantial case against the Michigan man who told investigators the crimes were "none of his business."

Attorneys on both sides have dissected and interpreted the definition of criminal responsibility for jurors before, during and after the proof portion of the trial concluded.

Jurors began deliberating shortly before 3:30 p.m. Monday, but decided to go back to their hotel rooms after less than 2 hours of deliberations.

The jury has to work their way through a substantial presentment of 38 charges against Thomas and 41 page verdict form.  On Tuesday morning, the judge will listen to and review the victim impact statements in case the jury finds Thomas guilty on premeditated or felony murder.

If they come back with guilty verdicts on those counts, the same Chattanooga jury would decide Thomas' sentence.  Their three options would include life in prison with parole, life without parole and the death penalty. 

Victim impact statements

Hugh and Mary Newsom spoke about their athletic son, Chris with a "contagious smile".

Mary Newsom recalled several conversations she had with her son, including a promise he made regarding his parents elderly years.

"I remember Chris telling us one day that when we got old he would take care of us and when that day comes Chris won't be here to keep his promise," Mary Newsom said as she looked over at the defendant.

Newsom also had a close relationship with his grandmother who attended his games as he grew up.

Hugh Newsom told the court, his son's murder has impacted the entire family, robbing them of security even hurting his grandmother's health.  "Chris' grandmother suffered a stroke shortly after his death and Grandma Gray now resides in a nursing home."

Gary and Deena Christian spoke about their daughter, Channon with aspirations of helping children.  

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