Jury selected for 3rd trial for Knoxville ‘Black Widow’

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A jury has been selected for the third trial of Raynella Dossett Leath, also known as “Knoxville’s Black Widow.”

Four women and 12 men were picked for the jury. Out of the 16 jurors, four will be alternates. Those alternates have not been determined.

Jury selection began Monday. Day one of the trial started with 198 potential jurors.

With so much publicity surrounding the case over the years, it creates a sticky predicament for Judge Paul Summers, who spent the day Monday narrowing his large pool of potential jurors. The defense team made the case that anyone who had read detailed coverage of the Leath case will know facts that will not be introduced in trial, a concern Judge Summers acknowledged.

The trial that will determine once and for all Leath’s guilt or innocence. The Oak Ridge native is facing charges in the shooting death of her second husband, David Leath, something she was tried for twice before. She is accused of staging his death as a suicide.

Previous story: ‘Black Widow’ trial to be held in Knox County

The first time she was tried for the crime, it ended in a mistrial. The second time, she was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, eligible for parole after 51 years.

However, Judge Paul Summers tossed out that conviction in 2016, ruling that former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner was under the influence of pain killers while presiding over the trial, a turn of events that scored Leath one more chance at freedom.

Leath’s possible criminal history dates back further than her second husband’s death. Leath has also been accused of giving her first husband, former Knox County District Attorney General Ed Dossett, a fatal overdose of morphine in 1992 and staging it as a cattle trampling.

Mention of this will not be heard in her current trial.

Testimony begins

During opening statements, the state maintained that Leath committed the the premeditated murder of her husband David Leath in 2003, pointing to the three gunshots fired the day of his death, with the second gunshot hitting his forehead and ending his life.

Raynella Leath looked away and appeared to get emotional when the prosecution showed a crime scene photo of David Leath the day of his death.

The defense told a different story, painting the picture of a happy marriage between the two. The defense said David Leath’s mind was declining due to dementia and when his health didn’t improve, he sank deeper into depression and committed suicide. The defense says he kept the details of his depression secret from friends and family.

The state’s first witness was David Leath’s daughter Cindy Wilkerson. She testified that she found a gun holster without a gun at her grandmother’s house.

The state also presented as evidence the 911 tape from that day.

“Where is your husband?” asked the 911 operator. “He’s dead in the bed. Please help me. Hurry. Help!” said Raynella Leath during the 911 call.

David Amburn with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office responded to that call. He was the second witness called to testify.

“I saw Mr. Leath laying in the bed and it was quite apparent that he didn’t need medical attention at that time,” said Amburn. He also said Raynella Leath was sobbing uncontrollably when he arrived.

“I described her as sobbing uncontrollably and I think I did use the word grieving,” he said.

A total of five witnesses gave testimony on Monday. Court is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.



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