published Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Victims’ families can’t sit up front with photos in Knoxville trial

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The families of two young torture killing victims in Knoxville can wear photo buttons of their loved ones or they can sit up front in the courtroom, but not both.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Senior Judge Walter Kurtz ruled Monday that if relatives of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom wear the buttons, they must sit two or three rows behind suspect George Thomas and his attorneys. The families had sat directly behind prosecutors and within feet of jurors at previous trials.

Thomas and Vanessa Coleman were granted new trials in the 2007 killings in the wake of a prescription pill scandal involving the previous trial judge. Coleman — of Lebanon, Ky. — was reconvicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Thomas will be tried May 13.

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