Judge grants request for new evidentiary hearing in Coleman murders

WATERLOO, Ill. – The man convicted of killing his wife and sons in their Columbia, Illinois home was back in court Tuesday 10 years after the crimes.

Chris Coleman was convicted in 2011 of strangling his wife, 31-year-old Sheri Coleman and their sons, 11-year-old Garett and 9-year-old Gavin. He was sentenced to three life terms without the possibility of parole. He’s already tried one appeal and that failed.

Coleman's new appointed attorney has asked Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Stephen McGlynn to reconsider the original conviction based on four, small, nude but censored pictures of Coleman and his mistress. Dozens of family and friends of the victims attended the hearing as they are anxiously awaiting to see how the judge will rule.

Coleman entered the courtroom Tuesday wearing a white-colored shirt and black pants, with handcuffs and shackles on his feet. He showed no emotion throughout the proceedings and looked directly at the judge the majority of the time. At one point, he looked at those attending the hearing as some of the victims’ family tried to hold back their tears.

During an evidentiary hearing last month, Coleman’s attorney argued the original trial for the 2009 murders violated Coleman’s due process when jurors found small copies of four explicit images of Coleman and his girlfriend on the back of an evidence display.

Metadata was attached to the back of the photos, which contained the date the pictures were taken. The metadata was inconsistent with the date when Coleman said the affair began.

According to witness interviews after the original trial, jurors were first going to vote not guilty, but when they saw the metadata, they changed their minds. They believed the information on the back of those photos made Coleman look as if he was not telling the truth about the timing of his affair and must have been lying about other things.

On Tuesday, detectives testified why they censored the photos and mentioned at the time that the judge did not want the photos entered into evidence unless the couple’s photos were censored. Detective says putting the information on the back of each photo helped determine from which device the photos were obtained.

At least three detectives gave testimony about the photos and how information was formulated, including the assistant police chief of the Columbia Police Department and an investigator from the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis about the metadata on the back of the photos.

Coleman’s attorney said it was unnecessary to attach information to the back of the photos.

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