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Chief Justice appoints new judge to oversee 3 Christian/Newsom cases

5:33 PM, Oct 31, 2012   |    comments
  • Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz
    
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A retired Davidson County judge who has been serving as a senior judge will oversee the cases of three men previously convicted in the murders of a young Knox County couple.

Channon Christian and Chris Newsom were carjacked, raped, and murdered in 2007.  Four suspects were found guilty in connection with their deaths, but those convictions were overturned by Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood after the original presiding judge, Richard Baumgartner, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and admitted to a prescription drug addiction.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Judge Blackwood removed from the cases earlier this month, because of concerns that he'd lost his objectivity.  He will still preside over Vanessa Coleman's retrial, which is set for November.  She was found guilty of facilitation in the murder of Christian.

Wednesday, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Gary R. Wade appointed Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz to see the cases of Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, and George Thomas to their conclusions.

Judge Kurtz has served as senior judge since 2008, when he stepped down from the Circuit Court bench in Davidson County, a position he held for more than 25 years.  Senior judges are former trial and appellate court judges who may be assigned on a temporary basis to any state court.

Kurtz served as presiding judge from 1987 to 1989, and has presided over both civil and criminal cases, including numerous death penalty cases.

Recently, he presided over the trial of Jessica Kennedy, who was found guilty of facilitating the murder of Monroe County election commissioner, Jim Miller.

Judge Kurtz took another 4-year appointment as a senior judge in early 2012, with the understanding that he would retire at the end of this year.  He has agreed to extend his time on the bench to see these cases through to a resolution.

Bio of Judge Walter C. Kurtz

Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz has served as senior judge since 2008, when he stepped down from the Circuit Court bench in Davidson County, a position he held for more than 25 years.

Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from The Citadel in 1965 and served in the Army from 1966 to 1969, including a tour in Vietnam with an armored cavalry squadron during which he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal four times.

After his Army service, Kurtz attended Vanderbilt Law School, graduating in 1972. He then served as Director of Legal Services of Nashville (what is now Legal Aid) and was the elected Metropolitan Public Defender from 1978 to 1982. He has taught law at both Vanderbilt Law School and The University of Tennessee Law School and argued and won a case before the United States Supreme Court.

Kurtz served as presiding judge from 1987 to 1989, and has presided over both civil and criminal cases, including numerous death penalty cases.

Senior judges are former trial and appellate court judges who may be assigned on a temporary basis to any state court. Judge Kurtz took another 4-year appointment as a senior judge in early 2012, with the understanding that he would retire at the end of this year.

Judge Kurtz has agreed to extend his time on the bench to see these cases through to a resolution.

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