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New judge appointed in Knoxville torture-slayings

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A new judge will review the orders for new trials for three men convicted in the 2007 torture and slaying of a young Knoxville couple.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/TYDrLv ) the state Supreme Court Chief Justice on Wednesday appointed Senior Judge Walter Kurtz to take over the cases from Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood.

Blackwood ordered retrials for four defendants in the slayings after the judge who originally presided over the trials was involved in a drug scandal. Prosecutors contested the new trials for all but one of the defendants.

Last week, the state Court of Criminal Appeals ruled there was an appearance of bias by Blackwood against the state as a result of a contentious hearing. He was ordered to step down from the three cases in dispute.