A decision Thursday by the Tennessee Supreme Court puts new trials on hold for three of the four defendants in the Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom murders.
The justices were asked to review the order granting new trials for Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins and George Thomas, all convicted in connection with the kidnapping, rape and murder of the young Knox County couple.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood granted the new trials based on former Judge Richard Baumgartner's admitted drug addiction.
Thursday, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a trial judge's misconduct outside the courtroom does not necessarily require a new trial unless the misconduct is shown to have affected the trial proceedings.
"Although given the opportunity, the defendants failed to offer any proof that the original trial judge's misconduct outside the
courtroom affected the integrity of the trials," the order stated.
The Court acknowledged that "the public's confidence in the judiciary is undermined by irresponsible and improper conduct of judges in both their professional and personal pursuits."
The Court described Baumgartner's misconduct outside the courtroom as "a clear and palpable" violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and cautioned that its "order should not be construed as condoning or excusing" Judge Baumgartner's misconduct.
The court now sends those three cases back to Judge Blackwood, who can now reconsider those motions for new trials on other grounds, "under the legal standards as clarified in the Court's ruling."
A retrial for the fourth person convicted in the case, Vanessa Coleman, is still on track to be held in November with a sequestered jury from another county.