UPDATE on a horrendous crime -- but details are still unverified

Last month I wrote three posts about the brutal double rape and murder in Tennessee. The crime was about as horrible a crime I've read about, except that there was no way to verify the most gruesome (and widely repeated) details of the case -- said to involve pre mortem sexual mutilation.

Naturally, when I saw (via Glenn Reynolds) that the Anchoress linked a recent post by Rob at Flopping Aces, I read the latter carefully. Sure enough, it's the same as the accounts I saw last month, except no links at all are provided:

While Channon was forced to watch, her boyfriend was raped prison style and then his penis was cut off. He was later driven to nearby railroad tracks where he was shot and set afire. But Channon's hell was just beginning. She was beaten; gang raped repeatedly in many ways, had one of her breasts cut off and bleach poured down her throat to destroy DNA evidence--all while she was still alive.
There's nothing I hate more than repeating myself, but I've looked again, and I am still unable to verify any of the details involving pre-mortem sexual mutilation, so I'll just repeat what I said in my previous post:
I have not seen a link to any medical examiner's or coroner's report anywhere which would indicate pre-mortem sexual mutilation.


What's really eating at me is how all of this might affect the legal aspects of the case. I was trained as a lawyer, and I do believe in the concept of justice, and it is important that all suspects receive a fair and impartial trial -- no matter how horrifying the facts or circumstances of the case. From a prosecutorial perspective, (unless, of course, you're Mike Nifong and running for office) massive pretrial publicity is not good thing, because it makes it harder to find an objective and unbiased jury, and tends to turn the trial into a circus. Like it or not, there's simply no way to avoid the growing public interest in this case, which is why I think it is important to get the story straight. If massive publicity is based on allegations which later turn out to have been unsubstantiated, I think that might help the defendants avoid the death penalty, because the lawyers could then portray their clients as victims of a lynch mob. Activist defense lawyers like the late William Kunstler would have a field day painting poor black defendants as victims of massive, Internet-fueled hysteria, and false allegations promulgated by "right wing hate sites." And of course there are "right wing" hate sites which are all over this case. (Just Google "Channon Christian vnn" or "Channon Christian" "David Duke" for a sampling.)

So, while I still have no idea whether Ms. Williams report will be substantiated, my worry is that floating around unsubstantiated allegations might interfere with the administration of justice. If this phenomenon worked to the advantage of the defendants (they are, after all, presumed innocent), whose cause would be served?

The facts and evidence will all come out sooner or later, but right now, a lot of people are making up their minds based on facts they don't know, and evidence which cannot be found anywhere.

This is my third post on this matter. Normally, I would not spend hours researching a criminal case in another city, but it just plain bothers the hell out of me to see so many people asserting what isn't yet knowable, and then screaming that the media are ignoring it. I'd like to see this case get the media attention it deserves, but I'd hate to see it get that attention in the wrong way. ("Internet hate sites whip up hysteria with false charges" or something.)

A gruesome and horrible double murder like this will naturally tend to generate hysteria, and while it's bad enough to see hysteria precede actual evidence, here there's Internet hysteria based on the assumption of evidence which just isn't there. Too many people are behaving as if the facts don't matter.

I think they do.

I still think the facts matter, and I'm still not finding them.

UPDATE: La Shawn Barber has more on the case, and she also notes that the pre-mortem sexual mutilation aspects are unconfirmed. The most important aspect of this horrible case is that it is being ignored by the media:

What's up with the lack of blanket media coverage? I'm not talking about a story here or there with case updates. The media should be swarming around this story. What happened to Christian and Newsom should be all over the airwaves and printing presses.

What's up with the stunning silence of feminist types and hate-crime proponents? Forget Newsom. He was a white male. But what about Christian? Where are the pot-bangers and wanna-be castrators?

Have so-called black leaders said anything about what those thugs did? They have so much to say about everything else.

I've seen no evidence that the couple was singled out because of their race, but considering the horrendous nature of the case, whether there was racial hate would seem almost irrelevant.

In any case, the case is outrageous enough without screaming about unverified facts. (If they turn out to be wrong, it is not going to help the prosecution's case.)

Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,

My earlier comment on the case has had me excoriated by some white-supremacist sites for covering up a hate crime.

Well, to be a hate crime, the motivation has to be hate. I haven't seen any evidence of that so far. It's certainly true, of course -- as LaShawn notes -- that if the races were reversed the press would be all over this case and lots of people would be confidently pronouncing it a hate crime without any evidence other than the races of the perpretrators and victims, but since it's black-on-white crime they're making less noise. That's the press.

The press is naturally recalcitrant about reporting this case, for reasons involving political correctness. If it turns out that the gruesome pre-mortem mutilation never occurred, the press will have a field day congratulating themselves for downplaying the story. Which is why the people who are making demands of the press should stick to the facts that are known so far.

UPDATE: A disturbing and unverified report that people are celebrating the murders:

Jacque Patrick Fitzgerald (Knoxville) - St. Nicolas Thief, president and founder of Black Poverty Speaks, along with many local Knoxville blacks who live in the Washington Pike area has organized a social action protest celebration championing Lemaricus Davidson and Letalvis Cobbins.

Davidson and Cobbins are the brothers and two of the five suspects charged in the carjacking, kidnapping, rape and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom.

"We're coordinating the celebration to to jive with the march angry whites are planning in memory of the victims and because of the 'media black-out' they note the case is receiving from national news networks," Thief, who is currently stationed in Knoxville, said.

Someone obviously wrote this, but is it for real? I find nothing to confirm the existence of any "Nicolas Thief" or any organization named "Black Poverty Speaks," so I doubt it.

many local Knoxville blacks?

No way.

MORE (05/15/07): The "Nicolas Thief" story circulates widely, but it's as unverified as the pre-mortem sexual mutilation claims.

Is verification going out of style?

AND MORE (05/15/07): Michelle Malkin has a video report which focuses on the lack of media attention paid to this case, and she notes that the sexual mutilation is unconfirmed. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

(And I am still unable to confirm it.)

Matthew Sheffield says,

I don't think that local crime issues should ever be covered in the national press but if the media are going to cover them, they need to be consistent.
Which in this case they most definitely are not!

(FWIW, I'm beginning to think they're hoping the case gets drowned in a sea of misinformation and unconfirmed reports. That way, they can say they were "doing the right thing" by not reporting it.)

UPDATE (05/18/07): My thanks to Clayton Cramer for the link.

New post here.

posted by Eric on 05.14.07 at 03:15 PM


Good advice on horrible murder story out of Tennessee....
I couldn't find a comment post place for your gas price posting, so pardon it here:
Let's take a deep breath: the prices of houses, cars, milk and hamburgers are ALL at all-time highs (except for housing prices slackening for a month or two recently). The price of EVERYTHING is at an ALL-TIME high, because of the nature of our well-run and good-running economy - steady, nearly neglible inflation - so that nominal prices continually rise. (Clothing might be an exception, thanks to globalization and Wal-Mart; a winter coat or a bikini can be had for less in nominal dollars than 20 years ago, it seems.)
The REAL price of gasoline hit its modern high in March, 1981, which in today's dollars would be $3.22, i'm told. We still are a ways from that.
I can't understand why AP and many wire services flog the "Record price," story when it's a crock.

nodak boy   ·  May 14, 2007 7:43 PM

The Knoxville Horror: The Crime and the Cover-Up

Eric, your post was a breath of fresh air. (So far, I have only read the latest one.) Unfortunately, your voice is being ignored. The bloggers who are being promoted -- most egregiously by Michelle Malkin (even if she has herself noted that the rumors are unverified)-- are the ones who are repeating the Internet rumors of genital mutilation, without having made any effort to corroborate them.

I just spent five weeks researching this story, and hit a big stonewalling campaign in Knoxville. The KPD refused to release the autopsy reports. So, I called the County Medical Examiner's office, and was told to call the KPD (I didn't tell the person I was speaking with, that I'd already done that.) The Knox County Sheriff's Office (which was in on the case) said, 'Call the KPD.' The County Court clerks said, 'Call the KPD.' The district attorney general's office never returned my calls at all.

And so, I partially blame the authorities for the rumors. But I certainly blame the motley characters -- neo-Nazis, black supremacists, white nationalists, and indeterminate mischief-makers, without the qualification of "partial." They do not give a damn about the truth. And I also blame without qualification the national media for refusing to cover the story. Had they done so, I believe the aggregate pressure of national scrutiny and media power would likely have led to the authorities either releasing the autopsy results, or someone leaking them.

That was one of the results I sought with my story, but everyone is listening instead to Michelle Malkin, who appears to have done very little work on this story, yet who has grabbed all sorts of credit she does not deserve. I used to be a big fan of hers; no more.


One thing that I did just learn, from a reader who sent me a good link: Apparently, the killers did dismember Channon Christian.


Let us pray she was dead first, when they did. I know of racial killings in which blacks have begun dismembering a bound and gagged white victim while he was still alive (a "Zebra" murder in 1974).

The shameless rumor-mongering in this case has the blogosphere looking every bit as bad as bad as the MSM.


Nicholas Stix

Nicholas Stix   ·  May 18, 2007 4:19 AM

CrimeLibrary has an update from 5/23 wherein they quote Chris Newsom's mother stating that she was assuered by the police that there was no mutilation of Channon or Chris.

R Roze   ·  May 23, 2007 11:38 PM

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