Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Alton Coleman & Debra Brown: Odyssey of Mayhem


In August 2000, ruling in a Virginia capital murder case, the U.S. Supreme Court said a murder defendant is entitled to constitutionally adequate legal representation. Colemans attorneys immediately filed for relief under the high courts ruling and the Court ordered the Indiana Supreme Court to reconsider Colemans death sentence.

Coleman alleged that during the sentencing phase of his trial his counsel was inadequate and did not bring up mitigating factors that might have spared Coleman from a trip to the electric chair. Alton suffered from a troubled childhood, a personality disorder and brain dysfunction, attorneys said.

The Indiana high court had already upheld his conviction and sentence on direct appeal.

Given these aggravating circumstances, even had his counsel presented the evidence of Colemans impoverishment and abuse, we see little likelihood the jury recommendation or the trial judges sentence would have been different, wrote the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.

Even if the state of Indiana spares Alton Coleman, there are any number of prosecutors who are still awaiting a crack at him. The chances of Coleman, or for that matter, Brown, ever seeing the outside of a prison cell are slim. If Indiana takes a pass on Coleman, then Ohio wants its turn, and if the Buckeye State spares his life, then its on to Kentucky.

Alton Coleman was executed by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville at 10 a.m. Friday, April 26, 2002.  He was 46 years old.

He spent his last days fighting tenaciously for his life, but appeals that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court were unsuccessful. Coleman claimed ineffective counsel and that the prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment would be violated by having his execution broadcast over closed-circuit television.

The spree killer also charged that his jury was racially biased.

Relatives of Coleman's victims in Illinois and Indiana were able to watch the death sentence being carried out via a secured television link, but no recording was made of the event.

Coleman was executed for the beating death of Marlene Walters, 44, of Norwood, Ohio on July 13, 1984.  Harry Walters, the victim's husband, and two of the couple's sons-in-law observed the execution inside the Death House.

His execution, the third since Ohio reinstated the death penalty, was well-covered by media, with the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections reporting that 43 news outlets had applied for credentials, including TV stations, and newspapers in each state where Coleman and Debra Brown killed.

He ordered a huge last meal: filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms, fried chicken breasts, corn bread, biscuits and brown gravy, french fries, broccoli with cheese, salad with french dressing, onion rings, collard greens, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream and a cherry Coke.

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