KNOXVILLE - A Knox County judge this afternoon threatened to remove from the courtroom relatives of a couple at the center of a torture slaying if they make any more derogatory comments to or about attorneys representing alleged ringleader Lemaricus Davidson.
"I understand that during the recess one of the Newsom family (members) addressed themselves to Mr. (Doug) Trant in a derogatory manner," Judge Richard Baumgartner said.
"Ladies and gentelmen, I will not tolerate that. They are officers of the court. This is their obligation." The judge went on to say that he also had been told that relatives of Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian had criticized Trant and co-counsel David Eldridge in broadcast media interviews.
In a surprising move he publicly ordered the relatives not to make comments about the defense team to the media.
"If you want to go home and talk about them in your living room have at it," he said. "You're not to do that in this court or on the air waves. You will not be allowed to be in this courtroom if you do that."
The incident came after Trant asked witness Josh Anderson, who was a friend of Newsom's, what he removed from Newsom's truck after the 23-year-old went missing.
"We had gotten his weed, his marijuana," Anderson said.
That testimony has never been aired publicly, despite the fact that there have now been two trials related to the January 2007 torture slayings.
Defense attorney Scott Green, who represented Davidson's brother, Letalvis Cobbins in August, made it a point to say throughout the trial that he did not intend to sully the reputations of either victim.
Trant's question shows that Davidson's defenders are not so squeamish.
In opening statements this morning, Eldrigde said the "gang from Kentucky" killed the Knox County couple and set Davidson up to take the fall.
"The gang from Kentucky (fled), leaving all the evidence conveniently to be found in Mr. Davidson's house," defense attorney Eldridge told jurors in Knox County Criminal Court.
Davidson is the accused ringleader in the slayings of Christian, 21, and Newsom and is standing trial this week.
A sequestered jury listened for more than an hour as, first, Baumgartner and, next, prosecutor Leland Price read the hefty list of charges against Davidson, who faces the death penalty if convicted.
Davidson's defense made clear in opening statements that they will seek to blame Cobbins, Cobbins' pal, George Thomas, and Cobbins' girlfriend, Vanessa Coleman.
Cobbins was convicted of rape and murder but escaped the death penalty.
More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.
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