DA, federal judge agree York City man deserves murder retrial
A York City man who was 17 when he was arrested for a fatal street shooting has won a new trial.
On Tuesday, April 10, Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook scheduled Kwilson Coleman's retrial for July 16. It's not yet known which York County judge will preside, she said.
Now 27, Coleman did not attend Monday's hearing where Cook, newly appointed defense attorney Rick Robinson and deputy prosecutors Justin Roberts and Stephanie Lombardo hashed out the date for the retrial.
Coleman, who remains in the state prison at Houtzdale, Clearfield County, is expected to be transferred to York County Prison in time for his next scheduled status hearing Thursday, April 26, Cook noted in court.
He had been serving a life sentence for first-degree murder.
Had Coleman not been granted a new trial, he would have to be resentenced since he was a juvenile at the time of the homicide. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that automatically sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole is unconstitutional.
Appealed: Coleman, who was found guilty by a jury in October 2009, appealed his conviction in federal court.
He asked for a new trial based on issues with eyewitnesses, including whether they were able to identify him in a photo lineup, according to federal court records.
On Feb. 1, the York County District Attorney's Office notified U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson that it agreed it was in the interests of justice for Coleman to be granted a new trial, according to Carlson's written report and recommendation.
Carlson called it "a commendable display of candor" and recommended that the conviction be vacated and that Coleman receive a new trial, according to federal court records.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo adopted Carlson's recommendations, overturning Coleman's conviction and granting him a retrial, according to his Feb. 26 order.
The background: Coleman was convicted of murdering Greg Wright in the 400 block of Prospect Street on Nov. 27, 2008.
At the time of his trial, prosecutors said he calmly shot Wright numerous times at close range.
Wright, 20, had pistol-whipped and robbed a buddy of Coleman's, trial testimony revealed.
Most of the robbery victim's friends fled, but Coleman pulled out a gun and began shooting, prosecutors alleged at the time.
Wright began running away, then eventually fell to the ground after bullets shattered his thigh bone and the bones in one of his arms, prosecutors said.
At that point, Wright began crawling away and screaming, but the shooter kept firing, according to trial testimony.
The ninth and final bullet slammed into Wright's back, killing him, according to prosecutors at the time.
Coleman has maintained his innocence and refused a plea deal that would have given him a 15-year sentence.
Second shooting: Coleman was already serving a life sentence when he was sentenced for a second shooting, which happened 10 days before Wright's homicide.
He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for the Nov. 17, 2008, shooting of Theadric Williams outside the Cable House high-rise apartment building.
As part of a negotiated agreement, Coleman was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison, to run concurrently with his life sentence.
Williams testified at Coleman's preliminary hearing and recounted that as he was leaving the Cable House, he overheard Coleman say he had a gun.
Williams said he warned Coleman to be careful because someone could "snitch" on him.
Coleman followed Williams outside and "was right there in my face, two feet from me," when he shot Williams in the abdomen, Williams testified.
Williams said he ran and was then shot in the back and the arm. He said he was left with limited use of his arm.
Teen robber: In 2007, when Coleman was 16, he was charged as an adult with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in seven cases by York City Police.
Charges were dropped in four of those cases, but Coleman pleaded guilty to robbery and conspiracy in one case, and conspiracy in another, court records state. He was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in county prison.
Police said he was part of a violent gang-related robbery crew allegedly responsible for more than a dozen robberies of individuals and businesses.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.