Man found guilty of murder, gets third life sentence
Joseph Sentore Coleman Jr., 38, of Philadelphia, was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to life in state prison for the murder of Christopher Wilkins on Aug. 30, 2016, at 505 Park Ave.
Jurors deliberated for more than five hours until they unanimously agreed on the convictions, which also included robbery, burglary and possession of an instrument of crime.
Wilkins was shot in the head at near point-blank range in his bedroom about noon during the course of a robbery at the Park Avenue home.
Coleman chose not to testify on his own behalf, and is now serving three consecutive life sentences for this murder and a double homicide on Oct. 31, 2016.
Jeana Longo, Coleman’s attorney, said she was deeply saddened for Coleman, after having heard the verdict.
“His intelligence throughout was unparalleled in any client I’ve ever represented,” she said.
The system failed him as he grew up on the streets, said Longo. If Coleman hadn’t turned to crime, he would have been very useful to society, she continued.
“This is tragic for the victims, but also for Coleman’s family,” she said. “There have been so many people who have been negatively impacted by this.”
Longo didn’t dispute that Wilkins was murdered in her closing remarks, but said the believable witnesses, who had nothing to gain by testifying, didn’t place Coleman at the robbery.
Witnesses called by the commonwealth, like Ariel Harlan, the supposed get-away driver, James Calvin Rooks, the alleged accomplice, and Jamal Brown, the presumed set-up man, “all have something the government can give them,” in the form of a plea deal, or reduction of charges, said Longo.
“If it took place anywhere but the courtroom, it would be bribery or extortion,” she said.
The entire investigation was riddled with holes because of the prosecutor’s reluctance to consider suspects besides Coleman, said Longo.
Police failed to secure video tapes of the gas station on Washington Boulevard that Coleman went to with Harlan after the shooting, get DNA references from anyone besides Coleman and Rooks, or get search warrants for any other homes of those involved besides 505 Park Ave., she said.
“A young man was shot to death, let’s look into it,” she said. But, “they decided his life was not worth investigating.”
Coleman’s DNA evidence, found on the disguises that were discarded on the porch of the Park Avenue home, amounted to nothing when the genetic material could have been deposited at any time, she said.
Additionally, the articles of clothing had no blood stains, despite Wilkins being shot at such close range.
“I’m asking you to just think critically,” Longo told the jury. “Look at all the evidence given to you.”
Martin Wade, first assistant district attorney, said all the witnesses he presented had “little to no inconsistency between the testimony, virtually nothing… This was a robbery gone bad.”
In the process of implicating Coleman, the alleged accomplices Brown, Harlan and Rooks implicated themselves and each were charged with homicide, said Wade.
“People don’t lie to get themselves charged with murder,” he said.
Coleman’s DNA being found on the hat and cut-off pant leg, which were used to hide the identities of the perpetrators, served to corroborate testimony, he said.
In Rooks’ testimony, Coleman handed him the cut-off pant leg for him to use.
“Of course” Coleman’s DNA is going to be on it, said Wade.
“His DNA shouldn’t be at the scene of a robbery if he wasn’t there,” he said.
All of the work that investigators have done made it easy for the jury to make a decision, said Wade.
“He’s quite clearly guilty,” he said.
After sentencing Coleman to the mandatory life imprisonment, Judge Marc F. Lovecchio said he couldn’t put the tragedy of the crime into words.
“This is the most heinous offense we see as a society,” he said. “Wade properly characterized the trial on day one, as a trip into the underbelly of Williamsport.”
Coleman’s charges related to possessing a gun were previously severed and placed on the May trial list.