Coleman attorney appeals case; argues jurors were shown 'salacious' videos

News-DemocratFebruary 8, 2014 

The jurors who decided the case of Chris Coleman, who is serving life in prison for the strangulation murders of his wife and sons, were prejudiced by salacious videos and explicit photos of Coleman and his lover, said his lawyer who is appealing Coleman's conviction.

Peter Wise, a Springfield attorney retained to represent Coleman in the appeal, filed a brief on Coleman's behalf in the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon in October.

"Most of the issues are based on what we believe to be errors made by the trial judge on the admission of evidence against Mr. Coleman, including a number of salacious photos and video," Wise said. "The State claimed these established a motive for the killing and we believe that they have very little to do with motive and the State went completely overboard in what they sought to present and what the judge allowed to the prejudice of Mr. Coleman."

Those exhibits included nude photographs and videos of Coleman and his lover, Tara Lintz, and videos of Coleman masturbating. At trial, Monroe County State's Attorney Kris Reitz argued the jury needed to see photos and videos because it showed motive and the intensity of the Coleman-Lintz relationship. Circuit Judge Milton Wharton, now retired, allowed the photos to be shown and video to be played for the jury.

The other issues on appeal include:

* Whether the judge erred in allowing the state to present the testimony of a linguist on the issue of authorship attribution.

* Whether the judge erred in admitting the testimony of Lindell Moore, who attempted to compare spray-painted graffiti to Coleman's handwriting.

* Whether the judge erred in allowing the testimony of Marcus Rogers and Kenneth Wojtowicz as their testimony violated Coleman's right to confrontation and was inadmissible hearsay.

* Whether the judge erred when he allowed into evidence a hardware store receipt and allowed a witness to testify it was for red spray paint.

* And whether the state provided enough evidence to prove Coleman guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sharon Shanahan, an attorney with the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, will file a response. That is due on March 31. She could not be reached for comment.

Wise, who is privately retained, expects to argue the case before a three-judge panel in late spring or early summer, he said Friday. He does not expect Coleman to attend the argument.

Coleman, 37, is currently serving a life sentence for the murders of his wife, Sheri Coleman, 31, and his sons Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9. The mother and sons were found strangled in the beds of their Columbia home on May 5, 2009.

While the criminal case was pending, Sheri Coleman's mother, Angela DiCicco, and her brother Mario DiCicco, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Joyce Meyer Ministries, Chris Coleman's employer. That lawsuit was dismissed last year. The DiCiccos appealed.

The wrongful death lawsuit is scheduled to be argued before the 5th District Appellate Court on March 4.

In the suit, the DiCiccos stated the Ministry provided Coleman with a laptop that Coleman used to send death threats to his family. The complaint also stated the ministry knew the Coleman's marriage was in trouble and sent them to marriage counseling. The lawsuit stated the ministry did nothing to investigate the source of the threats.

Mike King, a Tulsa, Okla., attorney who represents Joyce Meyer Ministries, has denied Coleman's job would have been in jeopardy and said an employer is not responsible for ensuring an employee's conduct.

The DiCiccos are represented by Belleville attorney Jack Carey and Chicago attorney Tony Romanucci.

In 2009, Joyce Meyer Ministries was previously ordered to provide documents including Chris Coleman's work timetable, salary, benefits, life insurance information, ministry's employee handbook and airline tickets and schedules on commercial flights and private airline passenger lists from Joyce Meyer Ministries for travel in connection to Chris Coleman's former job there as a security guard.

Carey then asserted that there was evidence that Chris Coleman was meeting Lintz while flying on a Meyer Ministries jet. Carey also mentioned negligent retention where "if an employer knows that an employee is violating your policies, and you keep them employed, there is culpability."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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