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January 3, 2013

Capital defendant in Tennessee seeks reversal based on sentencing jury's praying

Though many capital defendants likely pray a lot to have their death sentences overturned, this local story from Tennessee reports on an effort by one capital defendant to have his death sentenced overturned based on the claim that the jury which sentenced him to death prayed a lot.  The story is headlined "Jury's praise service cited in new-trial bid in torture slayings," and here are the details:

The jury that convicted Lemaricus Davidson in the torture slayings of a young Knoxville couple spent the majority of its sentencing deliberation singing worship songs and reading Bible verses rather than discussing whether the accused ringleader should die by lethal injection, his attorneys argued in a motion for a new trial filed earlier this month.

Senior Judge Walter Kurtz unsealed the motion along more than a dozen pages of handwritten hymns and praise songs at the request of Davidson's attorney, David Eldridge, on Dec. 13. The impromptu worship service violated Davidson's rights to a fair trial, due process and impartial jury, his attorney argued. Kurtz set a Jan. 10 hearing for that motion.

The motion is based on a signed affidavit from a bailiff who served during Davidson's 2009 trial. The affidavit included handwritten notes that said the praise service happened before deliberation, but does not specify a timeline or location of the service. It does show the jury members used copies of hymns while one member led the others in song while playing guitar. Another juror read a Bible verse — Psalm 90, verse 12 — according to the handwritten notes.

The documents also included a three-page Internet message board post from someone under the username ClaytonVol, who claimed to be a member of the jury panel. In it, the poster said out of the more than five hours spent in deliberation on the second day, four were spent "in prayer and in reading the Bible and reaching the Moral Certainty called for by Law."

"In this case, it is clear that the biblical references and religious hymns that infiltrated the jury room during sentencing deliberations are of a nature suggesting that jurors' highest responsibility is to God and that they will be absolved for their actions in determining Mr. Davidson's sentence," attorneys wrote in the motion.

Davidson was sentenced to death in the January 2007 kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.

As detailed in prior posts below, there have been diverse appellate rulings concerning whether and when a jury's death verdict must be overturned based on evidence that the Bible played a role in its deliberations.

January 3, 2013 at 04:39 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Anything to avoid responsibility by an evil, disgusting man:

Lemaricus Davidson's crime:
1.} "According to the testimony of the Knox County Acting Medical Examiner… Newsom was repeatedly sodomized
with an object and then blindfolded, gagged, arms and feet bound and his head covered.

2.} Barefoot, he was dragged outside the house to a set of nearby railroad tracks. He was shot in the back of his
head, neck and back and his body was then set on fire."

3.}"According to the testimony of the medical examiner, Channon's death came after hours of torture, having
suffered injuries to her vagina, anus and mouth.

4.} She was raped with an unidentified object and beaten in the head. It was also reported that her body was
scrubbed with bleach which was also poured down her throat, in an attempt by her attackers to remove DNA
evidence, while Channon was still alive.

5.} She was then bound with curtains and strips of bedding, her face covered with a bin liner and her body
stashed within five large bin bags, before being placed inside a residential waste disposal unit and covered
with sheets. The medical examiner said there was evidence that Channon *slowly suffocated to death."

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 4, 2013 11:32:12 AM

More about Lemaricus Davidson:

à "He sought to explain away DNA evidence linking him to the repeated rapes of Christian by saying he and she had been lovers."

à "Lemaricus Davidson…had multiple prior felony convictions"

à "Channon Gail Christian, 21, and Hugh Christopher Newsom, Jr., 23…were raped, tortured and murdered after being kidnapped early on the morning of January 7, 2007."

à "[T]hey were abducted from the apartment complex parking lot. [They] had been carjacked."

à "[T]he vehicle yielded fingerprint evidence that led police to Lemaricus Davidson and 2316 Chipman Street.
When police went to the address on Tuesday, January 9, they found the house unoccupied and Christian's body in a bin in the kitchen."

1. "Lemaricus Davidson « CALLS FOR JUSTICE"
2. "A story of life behind bars with Lemaricus Davidson | wbir.com" {liberal activists care about him}

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 4, 2013 11:35:21 AM

I would be unhappy with a jury's making a life-or-death decision WITHOUT asking themselves what their conscience and deepest moral beliefs are telling them. For some jurors this will involve religion; for others, not. That's why juries are supposed to represent a community cross-section.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 4, 2013 11:50:42 AM

Bill is happy with religious jurors once they get death-qualified, so that those whose religious beliefs weigh against the DP never make it into this "cross-section."

Posted by: HGD | Jan 4, 2013 2:28:26 PM

The issue here appears to be that the jury may have gone beyond praying and seeking the guidance of God/their conscience and replaced the instructions of the court on the law governing the death penalty with an interpretation of Biblical principles. However, I always thought that the internal deliberations of a jury were exempt from later review by a court. So unless, the court or a bailiff furnished them with a Bible, this issue would be exempt from judicial review.

Posted by: tmm | Jan 4, 2013 3:21:17 PM

HGD --

I am happy with disqualifying jurors who admit they cannot under any circumstances apply secular law, you bet.

If a potential juror said he could not under any circumstances vote for anything OTHER than the death penalty, if the defendant were convicted, do you think that juror should be allowed to serve?

Right.

Jurors must be able to follow the law. That is the reason SCOTUS uhholds abolitionist disqualification, and isn't about to change that holding.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 4, 2013 5:36:06 PM

There was an unsuccessful habeas case raising the same issue a few years ago. SCOTUS denied cert.

Not structural error. Appeal denied.

The death penalty should be mandatory in cases like this.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 4, 2013 10:57:43 PM

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