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Was Roger Coleman Truly Convinced Of His Innocence In The Murder Case?

Uncover the truth behind Roger Coleman's murder case: Was he genuinely convinced of his innocence? Dive into the gripping story to explore the complexities of justice and perception.

Vincent Bloodworth
Vincent Bloodworth
Feb 19, 2024120 Shares1.7K Views
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  1. The Escalating Record Of Roger Coleman's Sexual Offenses
  2. The Wanda McCoy Murder
  3. Irreverent Addict Or Believing In A Misrepresented Reality?
  4. Coleman's PR Scramble
  5. DNA Testing After Death
Was Roger Coleman Truly Convinced Of His Innocence In The Murder Case?

*Warning: The content ahead contains graphic depictions of violence, including sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.*

From the time of his arrest until his final moments in the electric chair, Roger Keith Coleman maintained his innocence regarding the rape and murder of 19-year-old Wanda McCoy, his wife’s sister, on March 10, 1981.

Hailing from Grundy, Virginia, Coleman, a coal miner, had a troubling history of sexual aggression, including a prior conviction for attempted rape. Despite compelling physical and forensic evidence against him, he garnered widespread support from various quarters, from religious leaders and legal professionals to strangers worldwide, who fervently believed in his innocence.

In his final statement before execution on May 20, 1992, Coleman asserted, "An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope America will recognize the injustice of the death penalty, as all other civilized countries have."

In 2006, posthumous DNA testing shed new light on Coleman's proclamations of innocence.

The Escalating Record Of Roger Coleman's Sexual Offenses

Roger Coleman, then 13 years old, made several lewd phone calls in 1972. He told me about sexual actions he wanted to do with me when he called. In the 2006 documentary, Deceiving Innocence: Roger Coleman, Lisa Merritt Silcox, a former Coleman classmate, said, "If my sister answered the phone, he would ask her the same questions."

Coleman called the sisters multiple times, going into extensive detail about his dreams related to sex. The similar kinds of calls started to arrive for other students. Coleman acknowledged making the offensive calls in juvenile court, but he maintained that he was motivated to do so by voices in his head.

Coleman's actions became more violent and audacious in their sexual intimidation and brutality over time. A month before Coleman graduated from high school, on April 7, 1977, he attacked Brenda Ratliff, who was teaching elementary school at the time, at gunpoint and made an attempt to rape her in front of Ratliff's small daughter, who was horrified. Coleman was sentenced to three years in prison, yet he only spent almost two thirds of that time there.

Coleman exposed himself to librarians Pat Hatfield and Jean Gilbert and then proceeded to ejaculate on the floor of the Buchanan County Public Library, which led to his arrest a year after his parole. Coleman was taken into custody once more for the murder charge before the matter ever went to trial.

The Wanda McCoy Murder

Wanda McCoy was found half-naked in a blood puddle on March 10, 1981. She was nearly beheaded, raped, and fatally stabbed with a knife. Coleman gave an alibi, but authorities didn't think his account was reliable, so they took him into custody.

A lack of forced entry, a pubic hair found on McCoy that was consistent with Coleman's, blood found on Coleman's jeans that matched McCoy's blood type, and semen extracted from McCoy's body that matched Coleman's blood type were among the physical and forensic evidence presented at trial.

Criminal defense attorney Thomas Scott, who assisted in the prosecution of Coleman, told in an interview that "the timeline also gave Coleman sufficient time to rape and murder the victim and leave before her husband came home from work."

Coleman was given the death penalty after a jury convicted him guilty of rape and murder in 1982. A petition for executive clemency was among the several appeals that were turned down, despite the backing of the anti-death penalty movement. Coleman took a polygraph test a few hours before he was supposed to be executed, but he failed.

The way his polygraph exam was conducted was really strange. According to Leonard Saxe, a social psychologist and prolific author on lie detection, "I don't think there's ever been any other instance of a test done on the day of execution or so close to an execution," told in an interview.

Coleman died in the electric chair at the Greensville Correctional Center on May 20, 1992, after a last-minute request for a stay of execution was turned down.

Irreverent Addict Or Believing In A Misrepresented Reality?

Coleman maintained a jail journal, where he frequently declared his innocence and attacked the legal system. He appeared in the media frequently to discuss his purportedly incorrect conviction and to persuade throngs of fans that he was not the murderer and rapist of his sister-in-law. He took every chance to restate his denial that he was the criminal.

Coleman spoke with Marie Deans, a legal expert who provided guidance to death row convicts in Virginia, for over ten years. She came to the conclusion that, if Coleman had done the crime, he was unaware of it because she thought he had untreated neurological conditions and brain damage. She told the Washington Post, "I just did not get the sense that he thought he could pull the wool over my eyes, or that he was trying to."

It is possible for someone to start believing things that are untrue. And part of it is that the more you practice something and speak it aloud, the more true it becomes, according to Saxe. In this instance, Saxe claims, Coleman's incarceration provided him with a chance to repeatedly say, "I didn't do it." That is the circumstance in which memory alteration occurs. Repetition aids in their ability to replicate or modify the reality of a circumstance.

However, Coleman is classified as a psychopath and a pathological liar by Scott and other authorities. Lying and manipulation are two of psychopathy's main traits. Scott states that Coleman "fit this bill to a T." "He was an intelligent, articulate psychopath."

Clinical psychologist Donna Moore made this observation in her book Deceiving Innocence:after killing his sister-in-law with brutality, Coleman returned home to his wife and if nothing had happened. Moore remarked, "It suggested you were dealing with a serious psychopath." "Psychopaths are incapable of feeling regret or sympathy for the victim."

Coleman's PR Scramble

The case of Coleman attracted sympathetic coverage in both national and international media. "Coleman was very persuasive and had an IQ of 140 or higher. He was, in fact, maybe the most intelligent prisoner to have served time on death row, even smarter than Ted Bundy. Consequently, Scott claims, he turned into "America's Capital Punishment Poster Boy" and a media favorite.

Coleman made appearances on Good Morning America, Larry King Live, PBS, Nightline, and the Today Show. Coleman said to Bryant Gumbel on Today that "every minute of my time that night has been accounted for." Many media sites encouraged their audience to ask the governor to pardon Coleman.

Coleman appeared on the cover of TIME magazine on May 8, 1992. "This man might be innocent," was the headline that appeared above his photo. This man is going to expire. Governor Douglas Wilder of Virginia received thousands of letters and calls pleading for forgiveness.

Scott asserts, "I think the national media outlets were complicit with Coleman in spreading this hogwash, which we all know now was a bald-face lie, and were intellectually dishonest in presenting his case."

DNA Testing After Death

Coleman's death turned him into a symbol of the unfairly imprisoned. Activists sued the state of Virginia in 2001, requesting a DNA test with cutting-edge technology that wasn't available prior to Coleman's execution. In 2002, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected the request.

The Washington Post said in a 2003 opinion piece that "few executions in modern times have proceeded in the face of stronger claims of innocence than Mr. Coleman's," pleading with Mark Warner, the governor of Virginia at the time. In the end, Warner complied with the DNA testing request.

DNA testing in 2006 provided unambiguous proof of Coleman's guilt, with a 1-in-19-million chance of a random match. "Those who are skeptical or in denial couldn't complain about home cooking or foul play because the test was carried out in a lab in Canada, a nation that opposes the death penalty," adds Scott.

However, other people have doubted the truth and continue to do so, such as Jim McCloskey, whose ministry, Centurion Ministries, attempted to establish Coleman's innocence. "I still struggle with the question of whether Roger did this or not. In September 2020, McCloskey said in an interview with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, "I don't know." "It's a problem that I will have till I die."

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