- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A convicted accomplice in the kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of a young Knoxville couple in 2007 is asking the nation’s highest court to review his case.

George Thomas, who’s serving two consecutive life sentences, was one of three men convicted as principle players in the slayings of 21-year-old Channon Christian and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Christopher Newsom.

Thomas was convicted of the same crimes as the two other men under the legal theory known as criminal responsibility. According to that theory, although a defendant might not have intended the specific crime committed, he or she knew the outcome was likely.

Thomas confessed to seeing Christian and Newsom captive, but did not stop the crimes.

According to local media outlets, Thomas’ attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, said the law under which Thomas was convicted is unconstitutional. He says the state needed to prove Thomas’s intent was to assist in the crimes of his co-defendants.



“The doctrine offends due process because it permits convictions - like Thomas’s - absent what would otherwise be sufficient evidence of the statutory mental state,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson argued that Tennessee’s criminal responsibility law has been stretched broadly through Tennessee Supreme Court rulings. He said there is a split of authority in the lower courts over the constitutional limits to accomplice liability and he hopes that split will lure the high court into taking Thomas’ case.

He also argued Thomas’ convictions can present a test case of criminal responsibility laws across the nation.

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