DA: Judge Blackwood wrong to order new Christian/Newsom trials, should step down, cites ‘little birdies’

KNOXVILLE — A special judge has decided to — again — grant new trials in one of Knoxville’s most high-profile cases, and state prosecutors are responding by asking him to step down from the case.

A motion filed late Friday afternoon in Knox County Criminal Court reveals that Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood is planning to enter an order granting new trials in the January 2007 torture slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23, without holding a hearing and despite a recent state Supreme Court ruling faulting his legal reasoning.

Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price, in turn, is asking Blackwood to recuse himself from the case, accusing the special judge of all manner of judicial misconduct.

Price cites an email in which Blackwood wrote he “heard rumors” that one defendant “is not ready for trial.” Price cites another email from Blackwood in which he wrote about “little birdies” who “put thoughts in my head” and questioned one of his legal moves. Price also cites a Blackwood email in which Blackwood wrote that “it was pointed out to me that Judge (Mary Beth) Leibowitz has a motion for new trial in another case and it was intimated that the TBI file (on Baumgartner) might not be stipulated, meaning live witnesses. I hope this is a ball of wax that will melt.”

“Why this court would be concerned about a proceeding in a different case before a different judge is not explained,” Price wrote. “It is difficult for any reasonable person to believe the state is receiving a fair hearing before an impartial judge when the judge is listening to ‘little birdies’ and ‘rumors’ at the same time.”



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