Vanessa Coleman trials cost taxpayers more than $355K

7:29 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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On Friday, a judge will sentence Vanessa Coleman a second time for her role in the 2007 murder of Channon Christian. A new judge could reduce Coleman's initial 53 year sentence at the hearing. Two trials means double the costs to taxpayers.

As 10News has reported for the past year, controversy has surrounded Coleman's retrial from the beginning. In her November 2012 retrial, a jury found her guilty on 13 of 17 counts of facilitating crimes against Christian, including her rape and murder. Just two weeks ago, Honorable Judge Walter Kurtz also granted a retrial for George Thomas, one of Coleman's Partner's in crime. A 10News investigation breaks down the numbers to provide an idea of how much a second chance in court is costing taxpayers.

To date, Coleman's retrial has cost taxpayers $55,149.39. Some of the big-ticket items include:

  • Busing the jury across the state: $4,982.92
  • Lodging for a west Tennessee jury to spend a week at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Knoxville: $15,442.40
  • Jury meals: $4,743.83
  • Payments to selected jurors and jury pool: $6,860
  • Travel for 12 out-of-town witnesses who also testified in Coleman's initial trial: $4,259.04

Click here to see a break-down of the charges 10News was able to obtain for Coleman's initial trial and for her retrial.

The numbers are still coming in, and it could be months before all charges are on the books. Coleman's total cost to taxpayers does not include court costs, which cannot be filed until after her sentencing. In Coleman's first trial clerk filings totaled $10,126.03.

Overall, Coleman's initial trial cost taxpayers $304,723.05. Nearly half of that covers her stays in both the Knox County Jail and the Tennessee Prison for Women, which totaled $147,134.22. Another difference: Attorney fees were significantly higher the first time around since the trial started as a death penalty case. Two state-appointed defense attorneys were paid a combined $109,278.07. In Coleman's retrial, she was only allowed one court-appointed attorney to represent her.

Judge Richard Baumgartner gave Coleman a 53 year sentence in her 2010 trial for 17 convictions of facilitating Christian's kidnapping, murder, torture and rape. Christian's boyfriend was also killed the same weekend in January, 2007. Thomas was initially convicted of facilitating crimes against Christian and Newsom in 2009. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison. A date for his retrial has not yet been set. Lemaricus Davidson and his half-brother Letalvis Cobbins were both convicted of first degree murders of Christian and Newsom. Davidson is on death row, and Cobbins is serving a life sentence. Judge Kurtz denied their requests for retrials in January.

A judge granted Coleman's retrial because former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner, who first heard the case, admitted to prescription abuse while on the bench. Baumgartner resigned his position in 2011, after pleading guilty to one count of official misconduct.

Coleman is currently serving time in the Tennessee State Prison for Women near Nashville. Judge Kurtz is set to sentence Coleman for her retrial convictions at noon on Friday. State law says she cannot get more than her initial 53 year sentence. After years of seeking justice, the Christian and Newsom families hope will be the last time they see Coleman in court. 10News' legal experts believe Coleman will not get the same sentence; they estimate it could be as much as 20 years less. If Coleman gets her wish, she could receive a minimum sentence of 15 years and be eligible for parole.

Once 10News knows Coleman's new sentence, we'll update the cost of her retrial to taxpayers.

Coleman's sentencing is scheduled for noon on Friday, February 1.  You can watch it streaming on or live on 10News at Noon.

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