A court hearing was held remotely via Zoom videoconferencing Thursday to hear Christopher Coleman’s motion to represent himself in continued efforts to receive a new trial in the 2009 murders of his wife and two sons.
Coleman, who was convicted in 2011 for the May 5, 2009 strangulation murders of his wife Sheri and young sons Garret and Gavin in Columbia, is serving concurrent life sentences in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
The Fifth District Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon upheld the 2011 decision several years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Coleman from exhausting every possible legal option.
The latest matter involves a post-conviction relief petition filed by Coleman in 2018. That filing alleges this metadata, as well as ineffective counsel, led to the guilty verdict.
Judge Stephen McGlynn ruled in April 2019 that the metadata was not extraneous, could not be considered prejudicial and did not violate Coleman’s constitutional rights. McGlynn also decided at that time, however, that he wanted another evidentiary hearing on the matter of Coleman claiming ineffective counsel.
At Thursday’s hearing, McGlynn granted Coleman’s motion to represent himself for the remainder of these proceedings.
Coleman’s most recent attorney, Lloyd Cueto, was appointed to remain on the case as stand-by counsel.
Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann said another Zoom hearing will take place 3 p.m. July 16, during which all involved parties will discuss and narrow down remaining issues in the matter and schedule any remaining evidentiary hearings.
McGlynn will also take up Coleman’s motion to reconsider the judge’s prior court ruling that the information contained on the photographic evidentiary exhibits in the 2011 murder trial was not extraneous information.
Metadata is information about other data. In this case, it includes items such as dates when photographs were taken or modified that seem to contrast the timeline the defense outlined at trial for Coleman’s affair with mistress Tara Lintz.
Jurors said small thumbnail-sized photographs on the backs of photo exhibits that were uncensored still included time and date information. That information was inconsistent with the affair timeline admitted by the defense at trial.
Some jurors, who were bused in daily from Perry County to the Monroe County Courthouse, interviewed by the press after Coleman’s highly publicized trial at the Monroe County Courthouse said the time stamp inconsistency between metadata and the photos used at trial turned the tide toward a unanimous guilty verdict.
Coleman was present at the Monroe County Courthouse for the April 2019 hearing, but was ordered to return to Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisc., and will participate in future hearings on his case via videostream.