Fri June 3, 2011
Coleman, convicted of strangling family, wants new trial
Christopher Coleman, the southwestern Illinois man convicted of strangling his wife and their two sons, has asked a judge to set aside his conviction and give him a new trial.
Attorneys for 34-year-old Coleman filed the motion Friday. They contend 15 errors (see some of them below) were made during his trial, leading to his first-degree murder convictions. The issues they raise include the judge's decision to allow a forensic linguist to testify about messages left at the crime scene and the testimony from friends of Coleman's wife.
Christopher Coleman was convicted of killing Sheri Coleman and their sons, 11-year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin, in their home in Columbia. He's serving life in prison.
Prosecutors contend Coleman committed the crime to further an affair and avoid losing his high-paying ministry security job.
The Belleville News-Democrat provides a list of the errors Coleman's lawyer claims the court made:
Jim Stern, Coleman's lawyer, stated in the motion filed in Monroe County Court on Friday that the court erred when it:
* Denied a mistrial after the jury sent out a note they were unable to render a verdict. The defense also stated that error was committed when the jurors considered extra-judicial evidence that convinced them to convicted Coleman after two days of deliberation. The jurors told reporters that they examined the time stamp on the back of a picture of Christopher Coleman and his lover, Tara Lintz, his wife's best friend and a Florida dog track waitress.
* Allowed testimony from a forensic linguist who stated spray-painted messages found inside the house, e-mailed threats and threatening letters left inside the Coleman mailbox were similar to known writings by Coleman.
* Allowed testimony from Sheri Coleman's friends, who testified that Sheri Coleman told them that Christopher Coleman wanted a divorce because she and their children were keeping him from God's destiny.
* Failed to declare a mistrial when Meegan Turnbeaugh, one of Sheri Coleman's friends, testified that Sheri told her that Chris beat her. The defense asserted that Turnbeaugh intentionally made the statement to "prejudice the defendant."
* Allowed sexually explicit letters, photos and videos between Christopher Coleman and Lintz.
* Allowed a receipt for red spray paint purchased by Christopher Coleman that was the same brand and color to the spray paint found inside the house to be entered into evidence. The defense stated that a proper foundation to establish its authenticity did not exist.
* Denied pretrial motions to suppress Coleman's statements to police, evidence seized at Coleman's house including a computer, two cars and biological samples taken from Chris Coleman.
* Denied a motion for change of venue. The trial was held in Monroe County, but jurors were selected and bussed daily from Perry County.