Coleman begins serving life sentence

Chris Coleman mug shot
Chris Coleman

Following his May 5 conviction for the 2009 strangulation murders of wife Sheri and sons Garett and Gavin inside their Columbia home, Chris Coleman was sentenced to life without the possibly of parole.

Coleman, 34, was transported by Monroe County Sheriff’s Department deputies to Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro last Tuesday. He was transferred later that day by the Illinois Department of Corrections to Pontiac Correctional Center to begin serving his sentence.

Meanwhile, Coleman defense attorney Bill Margulis said his client plans to appeal the verdict, perhaps as soon as this week.

Prosecutor Kris Reitz, Monroe County State’s Attorney, sought the death penalty, even though Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a bill abolishing capital punishment effective July 1.

The main reason to continue with a death penalty prosecution, Reitz said before the trial, was the use of the Capital Litigation Fund, created to provide both prosecutors and defenders financial assistance on capital cases.

Utilizing taxpayer funds collected throughout the state, the fund covers expenses associated with expert testimony, travel costs, legal fees and other trial-related matters.

Without this fund, Reitz said Monroe County would have been footed with these bills.

As part of the new ban, money normally set aside for the Capital Litigation Fund will now support law enforcement training and programs for families of murder victims.

Media outlets reported over the weekend that the Illinois Treasurer’s Office has paid nearly $500,000 so far on this case through the fund.

This does not include legal fees, which won’t be known until the appeals process is complete.

The Coleman defense team, including court-appointed attorneys John O’Gara and Jim Stern, spent nearly $315,000 on their case — much of which was used for witnesses who planned to testify in the sentencing phase.

Coleman chose to put his fate in the judge’s hands at sentencing rather than going through further testimony, eliminating the use of these witnesses.

The prosecution spent less than $180,000 on their case, it was reported.

According to the state treasurer’s website, the average cost of a death penalty case in Illinois is between $500,000 and $700,000.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email