Judge Stephen McGlynn ruled last Wednesday during a remote hearing that he will enter a judgement against Christopher Coleman that should end Coleman’s post-conviction relief petition process in Monroe County.
McGlynn had not officially entered the judgement as of Tuesday.
Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann said he agreed with McGlynn’s decision at the end of this “long and time consuming” process.
“The post-conviction process required me to dig in and review everything that had been done in the matter, a rather large task,” Hitzemann said. “When I started reviewing the voluminous trial transcripts and file, the hard work, dedication and ability of everyone involved was evident. Upon review, I felt confident that the verdict was proper, just and constitutionally sufficient. I couldn’t be happier that we succeeded, and it feels great to have played a role, however slight, in obtaining justice for Sheri, Garett and Gavin.”
Coleman, who was convicted in 2011 of the May 5, 2009 murders of his wife, Sheri and sons Garret, 11, and Gavin, 9, in Columbia first filed this relief petition in April 2018.
He is currently serving three concurrent life sentences in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for his crimes.
In the petition, Coleman argued he is due a new trial because of a violation of his constitutional rights, ineffective counsel and a claim of “actual innocence.”
McGlynn ruled in an April 2019 evidentiary hearing that metadata attached to the backs of four photographs of Coleman and his mistress, Tara Lintz, was not extraneous and therefore could not be considered prejudicial or a violation of Coleman’s constitutional rights.
Metadata, which had become a central issue of this petition, 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 Lintz.
At a July 16 hearing, McGlynn decided to grant the state’s motion to dismiss the remainder of the arguments in the case, but then pondered allowing Coleman to review all files in his case and considered a motion from Coleman objecting to last year’s April hearing.
Last Wednesday, Coleman – who is representing himself – cited a case as legal precedent for his objection to the hearing, using many of the arguments he has used throughout the proceedings.
That included that the metadata was prejudicial because it was not clearly presented from the witness stand and therefore could not be weighed by lawyers for the state or Coleman.
“It’s my position that my constitutional rights have been violated and I have not had a fair trial,” Coleman concluded.
Appellate prosecutor Charles Zalar, who represented the state, countered that the legal precedent Coleman cited does not apply to his case because the example involved an independent investigation by the jury. That did not happen in the Coleman trial.
Zalar also reiterated decisions McGlynn previously made about the metadata, including that it was not worse than the photos it was attached to.
“I don’t think his motion is well-founded and should be denied,” Zalar summarized.
McGlynn sided with the state.
“The exhibits were admitted as is with that information on it, and nobody bothered to explain the significance or insignificance of those dates,” McGlynn said, referring to the metadata. “I don’t think it’s an error that would justify a new trial.”
While McGlynn’s order ends Coleman’s petition here, Coleman can still appeal this ruling to the Illinois Appellate Court.