Chris Coleman case needs more potential jurors

5:45 AM, Apr 14, 2011   |    comments
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Perry County, Ill (KSDK) - Chris Coleman remains in Perry County, as the fourth day of jury selection is about to get underway. 

The judge asked the court clerk to have another 80 potential jurors brought in on Monday, just in case they are needed. So far, more than 20 people have been extensively questioned by lawyers. It's expected to take two weeks to find 12 jurors and four alternates for Coleman's upcoming murder trial.  

Coleman is accused of strangling his wife Sheri and sons Gavin and Garret in their Columbia, Illinois home in May 2009. He pleaded not guilty.

Day three of jury selection, saw tension between the prosecution and the defense as they try to determine which people will be on the jury. There appears to be an issue with a lengthy questionnaire that each potential juror filled out on Monday. The questionnaire which has more than 100 questions, evaluates among other things people's view of the death penalty.

"I don't want to be here," said one woman, who confessed it would be difficult to put aside her feelings about Coleman based on what she'd seen in the news.  She added, "I will do the best that I can do if selected."

All of the attention on this trial seemed to have the opposite effect on another man who said he was "excited" to get the call for jury duty, saying, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be on a murder trial."

But in addition to an open minded approach, what concerned attorneys from both sides was how prospective jurors would behave in the sentencing phase.  If Coleman is convicted, could jurors give equal consideration to a death sentence and life without parole?

Many potential jurors testified that the questionnaire confused them and as a result gave conflicting answers on death penalty views.

The judge told the lawyers that the questionnaire "has become an issue...it's supposed to be an assistance not a hindrance."

The prosecution stated in court that the defense is trying to keep anyone with a pro-death penalty stance off the jury. The prosecution argued if a potential juror is willing to keep an open mind and listen to both sides when it comes to death penalty or life in prison, then that person should be considered for the jury.

The defense appears to be worried that if Coleman was to be found guilty, of three counts of first-degree murder, that a jury member that supports the death penalty would automatically sentence Coleman to death without hearing arguments from the defense about life in prison as an alternate option.

Even though Illinois has abolished the death penalty, the new law doesn't take effect until this summer. Therefore prosecutors will try Coleman's case as a death penalty case.

Prosecutors say Coleman murdered his family because he was having an affair. They say Coleman wanted to leave his wife but his job with televangelist Joyce Meyer would have been in jeopardy if they divorced. Meyer and her son taped their testimony last week since they'll be out of town during the trial.  

Jurors are being selected in Pinckneyville, Illinois, but the trial will be held at the Monroe County Courthouse in Waterloo. Coleman's attorneys asked for a change of venue because of all the media coverage in the case. Instead, a judge ruled the jurors would be chosen in another county, and bused to the Monroe County Courthouse for the trial.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin on April 25.

KSDK

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