After the first round of arguments during a hearing in a circuit court, a judge made no decision as to whether Christopher Coleman, the Monroe County man convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and two sons in 2011, will get a new trial.
Circuit Court Judge Stephen McGlynn, however, granted Coleman a yet-to-be-scheduled evidentiary hearing to examine the competency of his original defense and consider other physical evidence that was not brought into original arguments.
“The judge has left us a narrow window to prove that 1) file data and 2) physical evidence need to be reconsidered more closely,” said Lloyd Cueto Jr., Coleman’s attorney.
McGlynn said from the bench that Coleman received due process, while commending the work of attorneys and judges in both the original trial and appeal.
“The trial court was fair and vigilant,” he said. “Judge (Milton) Wharton did an exemplary job ... I can tell your lawyer put a great deal of thought and effort into preparation.”
Still, he granted the new hearing on the argument that some physical evidence was not introduced and expert testimony that wasn’t introduced.
“... There is a lot of evidence that has just been touched on,” McGlynn said.
And then there is the issue of the explicit photographs of Coleman and his lover, Tara Linz.
Coleman arrived at the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo on Tuesday wearing a white dress shirt and black dress pants. He was shackled at his wrists and ankles as Cueto argued that his conviction in the 2009 murders were made on the basis of evidence the jury wasn’t supposed to see.
Cueto said jurors at the original trial found small copies of four explicit images of Coleman and Lintz on the back of an evidence display. Judge Milton Wharton did not want the photos entered into evidence unless the couple’s genitals were obscured. Jurors found the uncensored photos mistakenly attached to another evidence display.
Meta data in the form of a camera date imprinted on the photos were inconsistent with the date Coleman had said he started the affair. Jurors concluded that Coleman had lied and returned a guilty verdict to the court. He was sentenced to life in prison for strangling his wife, Sheri, and two sons, Garett, 11, and Gavin, 9, on May 5, 2009.
In April 2018, Cueto filed a request in the 20th Circuit Court to reconsider Coleman’s conviction based on the meta data the jury had found. Judge McGlynn allowed the process to move forward in March.
Two Columbia police officers testified during Tuesday’s hearing that they imprinted the backs of the photos in question with the metadata so that prosecutors could more easily identify them from the scores of others.
Ken Wojtowicz, who worked with the Metro-East Major Case Squad at the time of the murders, said the metadata helped him identify the photos during the trial. He said, however, that it’s “absolutely possible” the dates imprinted on the photos could be incorrect when they were extracted from the devices where the photos were stored.