Christopher Coleman’s attorney said Friday he is disappointed with an Illinois appellate court ruling that upheld Coleman’s three first-degree murder convictions for killing his wife and two sons at their Columbia home.
“I certainly thought we had some strong issues that the appellate court could have used to reverse and remand the case for a new trial,” said attorney Peter Wise, of Springfield.
Wise hasn’t had a chance to speak to Coleman, who is serving his time at an undisclosed out-of-state prison. “I will do that soon so we can talk about our next steps,” he said.
They could ask the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the case through a Petition for Leave to Appeal, according to Wise.
“I suspect we will do that, but I have to talk to Chris,” he said.
Monroe County State’s Attorney Kris Reitz couldn’t be reached for comment.
A jury convicted Coleman in 2011 of murdering his wife, Sheri Coleman, 31, and his sons Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9. The mother and sons were found strangled in their beds on May 5, 2009.
According to his attorney, Coleman received an unfair trial in Monroe County, in part, because trial judge Milton Wharton allowed the prosecution to show jurors “salacious” videos and photographs of Coleman with his lover, Tara Lintz.
Prosecutors argued at the time of the 2011 trial that the videos and photos of Coleman nude with Lintz established his motive. Wise argued they were irrelevant to the case.
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.
Wise also argued the state didn’t prove its case against Coleman beyond a reasonable doubt.
The appellate court’s 73-page opinion released Wednesday contends:
• No error was committed by the trial court when it allowed the state to present the testimony of an expert linguist.
• The presence of two small unredacted photographs in the jury room did not affect the fairness of defendant’s trial.
• The hearsay testimony presented through the five witnesses was admissible to establish motive.
• Handwriting expert Lindell Moore “never identified defendant as the author of the writings on the wall; he pointed out similarities, which the jury was free to accept or reject based upon its own visual inspections of the photographs of the writings on the wall ... even if it was error to allow Moore to testify, any error in the admission of his testimony was harmless because Moore’s testimony did little to advance the state’s case.”
• There was sufficient foundation to allow the nontestimonial IP addresses into evidence and allow Marcus Rogers and Kenneth Wojtowicz to testify about them
• Allowing the hardware store receipt into evidence was “harmless”
The opinion also states there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Coleman killed all three victims.
“Taken as a whole, we cannot say the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it creates a reasonable doubt as to defendant’s guilt. To the contrary, the circumstantial evidence against defendant is overwhelming,” it reads. “Any other potential suspects were ruled out by the police. The threatening emails were sent directly from defendant’s own computer. The evidence showed defendant possessed not only a motive to kill his wife and two children, but also the opportunity to do so, as all three were dead before 5 a.m., and defendant did not leave the house until 5:43 a.m.”
The full Illinois appellate court opinion can be found online at www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2014/5thDistrict/5110274.pdf.