ST. LOUIS (AP) — An Illinois appeals court has upheld Christopher Coleman's first-degree murder convictions in the 2009 strangling deaths of his wife and their two young sons, ruling the circumstantial evidence was "overwhelming."
In an opinion issued Wednesday, a three-member panel for the Mount Vernon-based 5th District Appellate Court rejected Coleman's claims that a judge wrongly allowed hearsay testimony about his failing marriage in the 2011 trial. Coleman also questioned the appropriateness of testimony about the victims' time of death, and prosecutors' use of a forensic linguist and sexually provocative photos and videos of Coleman's mistress.
Sheri Coleman, 32, was found strangled in May 2009 at the family's home in Columbia, southeast of St. Louis, along with the couple's sons — 11-year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin. All three were found in their beds.
Prosecutors said Coleman was having an extramarital affair and did not want to divorce because doing so would cost him his security job with the nearby Missouri-based Joyce Meyer Ministries.
In scuttling Coleman's push for a new trial, Justice Richard Goldenhersh wrote, "we believe that no error a combination thereof was so grave that it infected the fundamental fairness of the trial," and that prosecutors "presented sufficient evidence" for a conviction.
"This was an intense, lengthy and sensational trial with many complicated and hotly contested issues," Goldenhersh wrote, adding, "the record is voluminous," and showed that all involved — from the trial attorneys to the jury and judge — were to be commended.
William Margulis, one of Coleman's trial attorneys, said it was a "well thought out opinion" and that many of the issued raised in it were ones raised during the trial.