It is difficult to comprehend that an innocent man could be convicted of serious felony crimes and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Though the criminal justice system tries to avoid such results in all cases, they can, and they do, occur. When an innocent man is sentenced on a conviction for home invasion and sex crimes, he can hope that one day a judge may order a new trial based on evidence obtained since his conviction. Such is the case of an Illinois man who was ordered a new trial this week.
According to The Republic, now 39-year-old Christopher L. Coleman was convicted of armed robbery and aggravated sexual assault in 1994 in relation to a break-in and sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. At the sentencing almost two decades ago, Mr. Coleman was sentenced to 60 years in prison, 30 of which he was required to serve there. In 2010, Mr. Coleman attempted to get an order for a new trial based on new evidence. The circuit court judge at the time denied Mr. Coleman the order, and a state appellate court judge affirmed that decision the next year.
This year things have taken a different turn in the case of Christopher L. Coleman. PJStar.com reports that since his 1994 conviction, several people have come forward with details regarding the case, including that they themselves were the perpetrators of the crime, not Mr. Coleman. The statute of limitations has run as to these individuals, so they cannot be prosecuted in the case that Mr. Coleman is vindicated. At his original trial, the residents of the home that was invaded identified Mr. Coleman as the person who perpetrated the armed robbery and sexual assault. However, these individuals were impeached on the stand at the time. Nevertheless, Mr. Coleman was convicted and sentenced to the lengthy prison term.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruling this fall for a new trial will allow Mr. Coleman to present the new evidence in front of a jury, which may prove that he did not perpetrate the twenty-year-old crimes. In making its ruling, the Supreme Court refused to tailor the process by which a defendant can ask for a new trial by making a claim of his or her innocence more narrowly. Prosecutors had argued during the appeal that the state’s standard for such a process was far too lenient, and that historically the Court had only rarely ordered new trials on the basis that the defendant claimed innocence.
Ultimately, the Illinois Supreme Court ruling means that Mr. Coleman will likely go back to Peoria, where the crimes occurred, for a new trial within the next several months. There he will face a jury again, and perhaps prove his innocence and gain his freedom in the process.
Felony crimes, such as armed robbery and home invasion, are seriously prosecuted in the State of Illinois. As this case demonstrates, these felony crimes are punishable by lengthy jail sentences, and a defendant can be required to serve a large portion of the sentence in jail. If you have been charged with violating Illinois criminal laws, you should immediately seek out the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Goldman & Associates today for a confidential consultation.