Chris Coleman judge to allow handwriting expert

12:29 PM, Apr 15, 2011   |    comments
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Perry County, IL (KSDK) -- Eighty more people called to Pinckneyville as potential jurors in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Those summoned for jury duty will be filling out a lengthy questionnaire so lawyers can pre-screen the pool of people. The questionnaire asks several questions, including views on the death penalty.

Chris Coleman, 34, is charged with three counts of first degree murder. He's accused of killing his wife and two kids in their Columbia Illinois home in May 2009. He has pleaded not guilty.

On Thursday, which was day four of jury selection, the judge, overseeing the case, took some time to rule on a pending motion regarding handwriting experts, or linguists. He ruled that the experts will be able to testify in the upcoming trial, but there will be restrictions on the testimony.

The prosecution and the defense both plan on calling a handwriting expert.

The prosecution is trying to prove Coleman wrote death threats and sent them to his own family.

The expert will be allowed to talk about the similarities and differences of the handwriting, but will not be allowed to give opinion or hypotheses.

Both sides have agreed on 35 potential jurors for the pool. The prosecution is going to suggest once they get 40 in the pool, both sides starte selecting.  The pool will be dwindled down to 12 jurors and four alternates on Monday.

Chris Coleman's parents came to court on Thursday.  When Coleman entered the courtroom they exchanged smiles and mouthed "hello." Coleman's parents sat just a few feet behind him and the table of attorneys and the judge.  Coleman's father also attended on Friday.

Of the roughly two dozen people interviewed Thursday, nearly all knew something of the case from news coverage.  And some said they already believed Coleman is guilty.

More than one juror seemed to show a curiosity for high profile murder trials like O.J. Simpson's, Scott Peterson's and Casey Anthony's.

Others testified that they wanted no part in this trial.

"Would it help if I said I really don't want to do this?" said one woman.  The defense said, "We wouldn't have any jurors," if that was enough to excuse a person.

When the judge asked another woman to look at Coleman and promise she could be impartial, she said "I think you're asking a lot of people to do that."

To which he replied, "I can tell this has been an emotional drain... I'm sorry I had to put you through this."

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.

NewsChannel 5 reporters Ryan Dean and Casey Nolen are covering the jury selection and trial.  You can follow their updates on Twitter @ksdknews.


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