- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A state appeals panel is weighing whether police erred in searching a house while carrying a warrant without a key signature on it when they found the body of a slain University of Tennessee student inside a trash can.

The case against Lemaricus Davidson centers on whether evidence gathered during the search is valid because the signature of the lead detective in the case wasn’t visible on the warrant during the 2007 search.

A judge handed down a death sentence for Davidson in the torture deaths of 21-year-old Channon Christian and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Christopher Newsome.

If the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals finds the warrant invalid, it could mean a new trial.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1uEm5QV ) that the court didn’t say when it would rule after Tuesday’s hearing.

Defense attorney David Eldridge argued that even police officers realized it, albeit after entry had already been made.

“Your Honors, it is undisputed the search warrant was invalid,” he argued.

John Bledsoe, an attorney for the state Attorney General’s Office, called the missing signature a faxing error. Bledsoe said the detective signed the affidavit accompanying the search warrant and sworn to its truthfulness, but the signature line was cut off when the document was sent to a judge for approval.

Instead, Bledsoe focused on whether police were acting under “exigent,” or emergency circumstances and didn’t need a warrant or, in the alternative, Davidson abandoned his right to the house when he fled after the killings.

“The victim (Christian) was still missing,” Bledsoe said.

Judges Curwood Witt Jr. and Kelly Thomas Jr. focused much of their questioning on the “exigent” circumstances issue. Both questioned whether it was any less an emergency simply because the officers took time to shore up their case for a search warrant.

“It sounds like you (Eldridge) are saying the officers had to get a warrant or decide they didn’t need one right then (when Davidson became a suspect),” Witt said.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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