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Case against torture slaying suspect goes to jury

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The case against the alleged leader in
the torture slaying of a young Knoxville couple went to the jury
Tuesday with the defense trying to poke holes in a mountain of
circumstantial evidence.
Lemaricus Davidson, 28, faced 38 counts including kidnapping,
theft, rape and murder in the January 2007 carjacking deaths of
University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her
boyfriend Christopher Newsom, 23. The counts were consolidated from
an original 46.
The sequestered jury deliberated more than four hours without a
verdict and will resume work Wednesday. The prosecution intends to
seek the death penalty if Davidson is convicted.
Davidson's lawyer David Eldridge acknowledged in closing
arguments that his client was a drug dealer, that he lied to police
after his arrest and that he had sex with Christian.
Yet Eldridge said there's reasonable doubt Davidson committed a
crime, blaming instead Davidson's three co-defendants, whom he
called "the gang from Kentucky." He claimed the prosecution
offered a "made up story" to link Davidson to the rapes, beatings
and killings that occurred within hours or days of the carjacking.
"This is real life. So we can't tell you a story like you would
find on a 'Law & Order' episode ... (that) happened in a nice
little package," prosecutor Leland Price acknowledged.
The only ones who could say for certain what happened are
Christian and Newsom, and "Davidson made sure they were silenced
forever, that they would never talk again," Price said.
But, looking to the jury, the prosecutor said, "You know enough
to know ... these were his victims."
Eldridge suggested the clean-cut couple may have come to
Davidson to buy drugs, while prosecutors say they were random
victims ambushed by gun-wielding men in an apartment parking lot
while on a date.
The case has touched a racial nerve because the defendants are
black and the victims were white. A prosecution staffer fainted
during the medical examiner's testimony on the gruesome slayings,
and death threats against the defense attorneys are being
investigated by the FBI.
Davidson was captured five days after the carjacking in an
abandoned house 10 minutes from his rental house, where Christian's
body was found stuffed in a trash can. His fingerprints were on the
garbage bags around her body, his DNA was in her genitals and his
semen was on her pants, experts testified.
He was caught with a .22-caliber revolver similar to the
unconfirmed weapon used to kill Newsom, whose nude, shot body was
set on fire along railroad tracks about 100 yards from Davidson's
house.
Davidson was caught with Newsom's $136 silver athletic shoes.
Witnesses saw him wearing the shoes even though they were several
sizes too small. Price called them "part of the reward he got for
killing Chris Newsom."
Police were led to Davidson's house after Christian's abandoned
Toyota 4-Runner was found in his neighborhood and Davidson's
fingerprint was discovered on a bank statement in the otherwise
wiped-down vehicle.
Davidson's former girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, testified that the
day after the carjacking she saw him driving the SUV, he gave her
some of Christian's clothes and he prevented her from entering a
bedroom at his house where Christian was being held and later
killed.
The suspects implicated each other. Davidson's brother, Letalvis
Cobbins, testified at his trial in August that Davidson was the
ringleader who carried out the carjacking and choked Christian
before putting her in the trash can, where she suffocated.
Davidson told police that Cobbins and co-defendant George Thomas
carjacked the couple, that Thomas shot Newsom with Davidson's gun
and that Christian was still alive when Davidson left his house.
Davidson declined to testify at his own trial.
Cobbins was convicted by a jury brought from Nashville, to avoid
pretrial publicity, on murder and related counts and sentenced to
life in prison without parole. Thomas will get a jury from
Chattanooga when he is tried in December. Davidson requested a
local panel. No trial date has been set for the fourth defendant,
Cobbins' girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman. Cobbins, Thomas and Coleman
were all from Lebanon, Ky.
A fifth defendant, Eric Boyd of Knoxville, has been convicted in
federal court of being an accessory after the fact for hiding
Davidson and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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