Cobbins was officially sentenced to “life without parole,” but that should read, “life until parole or pardon,” since he can still be released from prison. The jury’s pretext for not sentencing Cobbins to death for the most heinous crimes ever committed in Knox County, Tennessee, was a transparently ridiculous set of what it called “mitigating” factors, which it asserted outweighed any aggravating factors: “a horrific childhood, the pleas of his relatives and his alleged role as subordinate to an evil mastermind.”
The solicitude the jury exhibited for the wishes of the convicted murderer’s relatives did not extend to the families of his victims.
Knoxville News Sentinel commenter “Local Girl” asked rhetorically,
"What more could [Letalvis] have done to them to get the death penalty? Please tell me? One more type of rape? another bit of torture? Did you hear that Chris was burned BEYOND RECGONITION? cobbins started that fire by following in the get away car.
It was cobbins that looked in that sweet girls eyes and raped her, tore her mouth, slammed his body inside her unwilling body. Yet, you say, mm not enough bad. It was cobbins that helped savagely rip her body to shreds in the area she considered most sacred. But apparently, he didn't shred it enough!...
She spent hours in a trashcan KNOWING that no one was coming….
You 12 did nothing more than look at Gary & Deena Christian, Hugh & Mary Newsom and say "it was bad, BUT it wasn't bad enough."…
[Life without parole: Jury rejects death penalty for Letalvis Cobbins by Jamie Satterfield, Posted August 27, 2009 at midnight, Knoxville News Sentinel.]
Such a sentence is ludicrously inadequate as punishment for what Cobbins did to Christian and Newsom. Cobbins’ victims meant so little to him that, as Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield noted, even two-and-a-half years after committing his crimes, and after having heard his victims’ names cited thousands of times in court and on TV, he still didn’t know them. He referred to Channon Christian as “that girl”, and to Chris Newsom as "Mr. Hodge Newsom". Properly feigning remorse would require that one at least learned the names of one’s victims.
Ideally, punishment would require that Cobbins endure the same torture, gang-rape, mutilation (while living), and murder that his victims suffered, but for better or worse, the U.S. Constitution forbids such sanctions. Even worse, in minority-dominated prisons, the prisoners are often in charge, and crime never takes a break. Thus, far from being punishment, Cobbins’ sentence will be more like a holiday, and will not prevent him from committing additional crimes. He had already been charged with assault on a jailer while awaiting trial, and prison will present him with the opportunity to deal and abuse drugs, just like when he was “free,” and to gang-rape countless additional white men.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution proscribes “cruel and unusual punishment,” but it does not prescribe a country club vacation.
How does the jury trying a man for a crime in which both victims were white, committed in a predominantly white jurisdiction (Knox County), where only 8.8 percent of the residents were black, get chosen in a jurisdiction (Davidson County) where 27.5 percent of residents are black? The answer: The judicial mischief of presiding Judge Richard Baumgartner, who personally chose Davidson County.
In order to thwart the interests of justice, Judge Baumgartner used a valid argument—that pre-trial publicity mandated a change in venue—as a pretext to rig the possible verdict. Moving the trial of a black defendant in a death penalty case to a venue where the jury can be packed with blacks virtually guarantees that a guilty verdict will not issue in a death sentence.
As KNS commenter “Local Girl” noted, the black jurors had to have lied during voir dire, when they said they were willing to choose the death penalty, in the event of a guilty verdict on the most severe charges.
Why, in this age of black jury nullification, it’s a wonder that Cobbins was convicted at all!
Judge Baumgartner ought to be thrown off the bench and disbarred, but instead will more likely be toasted and given awards.