Chris Coleman sentenced to life in prison

2:28 PM, May 9, 2011   |    comments
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Waterloo, IL (KSDK) - The judge in the Chris Coleman murder trial sentenced the triple murderer to life without parole and not the death penalty.

Judge Milton Wharton said he could not offer the victims closure, but he felt the death penalty would have prolonged the ordeal and made it worse for the victims' families.

"Very pleased with that from the defense side and we think it's the right result," defense attorney Bill Margulis said after the sentencing.

The defense team did not consider the sentence to be a victory.

"There aren't small victories here; all there is is tragedy," fellow defense attorney John O'Gara.

Margulis said they are planning to appeal. They expect to file the post conviction motion within in the next week or two and then the appeal process will follow.

Earlier today, Coleman waived his right for the jury to decide his fate.

O'Gara said it was Coleman's specific request for the judge to decide his fate and waive his right for the jury to sentence him.

"He didn't want to put his family through having to testify here on an very emotional day," O'Gara said. "He didn't want to put the jury through more, didn't want to put anybody through more. Figured with the status of the law being what it is right now, with what the governor has indicated, and what the legislature has done, it all seemed to be a lot of effort at this state that would have done more harm."

Illinois' death penalty ban begins on July 1. Governor Pat Quinn had previously said he would commute any such sentence.

When Coleman waived his right for the jury to sentence him, Judge Wharton reminded Coleman that he knew all the evidence and that the jury only knew what he allowed them to hear. Coleman decided to stick to his decision.

The prosecution told the judge that Coleman committed "heinous" acts by killing his wife, Sheri, and their two sons, Gavin and Garett, at their home in Columbia, Illinois on May 5, 2009.

"If not the death penalty for this defendant, then whom?" Prosecuting Attorney Chris Reitz asked the court. "Not going to grandstand. I will just say that it was hateful and shockingly evil that we all have been exposed to during this trial."

O'Gara pleaded for the judge to sentence Coleman to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He said Coleman would spend 23 hours a day in a cell with another man and that Coleman would be subject to horrible things.

"You know all too well what a horrible punishment it is to put a man in prison and have him die there," O'Gara said.

O'Gara continued speaking to the judge and said, "I never believed the answer to violence is more violence. I never believed the answer to cruelty is more cruelty. I never believed the answer to death is death."

O'Gara also addressed the crowds that gathered outside the courthouse and cheered when Coleman was convicted on Thursday night.

"I've looked at the editorials and cartoons in the newspapers and I perceive with a feeling that there is a case for death, vengeance, kill him," O'Gara said. "I saw it with my own eyes. Never saw anything like that here in the streets. That would be a popular gut reaction, but popular is not always right."

KSDK

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