Vanessa Coleman Live Blog: Moms take stand, jury sees evidence


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Vanessa Coleman returns to court for day two of the retrial for her role in the murders of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. Her new trial got underway Tuesday morning. This time, she only faces charges connected to the rape and murder of Christian. Click Here to Watch Live

On Tuesday, the trial started in a familiar way, with the jurors being the only people in the court room who hadn't heard the story. The prosecution and defense are both working to paint a picture for those 12 people, about what happened that January 2007 weekend. How much did Coleman know about the brutal kidnapping, rapes and murders, and could she have stopped it from happening?

Coleman is charged with 17 counts, all that she helped kidnap, rob, rape and kill Christian. But the state has to prove that she knew what was happening and that she helped do it in some way, so Tuesday they started from the beginning, giving jurors a chance to see first hand how terrifying the crime was.

In opening statements, prosecutor Takisha Fitzgerald said: "She's been beaten, she's been raped, she was hog tied and suffocated. She was alive when she was put in the trash can."

But the defense profiles Coleman as a scared and unaware 18-year-old who tried to help police the only way she could. "She spilled her guts! This 18-year-old from Springfield, KY. Never been in trouble in her life," said defense attorney Theodore Lavit.

Coleman's name didn't come up much outside of the opening statements, but her own words will play a major role in the comming days. And although it was the prosecution's turn to talk, the defense may have been dealt a big blow, in the form of a piece of paper that they call the "most damning evidence to prove their client's innocence" being tossed out by the judge before the jury got a chance to see it.

That paper was an immunity form, a request or recommendation from an investigator early on in the murder investigation. The form asked that Coleman be provided immunity from prosecution, saying that police didn't have evidence to link her to the crime, and that they needed her help to solve the case. Her attorney said that paper alone should prove to the jury that their client didn't play any part in a brutal weekend-long rape and murder.

The state says hold on, though. Prosecutors say they never saw the request, it didn't come from their department and it was never presented to Coleman. They also said it was written so early in the
investigation that they didn't know Coleman's role at the time. Ultimately, the judge decided to toss out the evidence, agreeing with the state that prosecutors cannot be held responsible for a request they never made.

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