in the Court of Appeals 24 May 2017.
by defendant from judgment entered 14 December 2015 by Judge
J. Thomas Davis in Clay County No. 13 CRS 50174 Superior
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General John P. Barkley, for the State.
Law Firm, PC, by James V. Parker, Jr., for defendant.
Matthew Coleman appeals his conviction for voluntary
manslaughter. At trial, Coleman admitted that he shot and
killed his wife. But he argued that, as a result of diabetes,
his blood sugar was dangerously low at the time of the
shooting, causing Coleman to act in a manner that was not
appeal, Coleman challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
and argues that the trial court committed plain error in
various evidentiary and instructional rulings. As explained
below, there was sufficient evidence to send the charge of
voluntary manslaughter to the jury and the trial court's
rulings were well within the court's sound discretion.
Accordingly, we find no error in the trial court's
and Procedural History
April 2013, Matthew Coleman and his wife went to the grocery
store and returned home around 1 p.m. Soon after,
Coleman's neighbor, Barbara Hardee, observed Coleman
walking toward her house carrying three briefcases and an
unidentified object. Coleman dropped the object (later
discovered to be a gun) in a brush pile in the yard. Coleman
then approached Ms. Hardee's house and told her that he
killed his wife. Ms. Hardee told Coleman not to "kid
that way, " but Coleman responded, "I'm not
kidding, didn't you hear the shot?"
Hardee called 911 while her husband, Roland Hardee, checked
Coleman for weapons. Mr. Hardee was concerned about
Coleman's blood sugar level and gave Coleman a granola
bar. Mr. Hardee asked Coleman why he shot his wife and
Coleman responded, "I don't know, something told
me." When Mr. Hardee asked Coleman if it was an
accident, Coleman stated "I just went to get my gun and
couldn't find it, then I just shot her."
and EMS were dispatched and arrived at approximately 1:40
p.m. In their initial investigation, law enforcement
determined that Coleman shot his wife, picked up three
briefcases and the gun, locked the house, walked past his
truck, threw the gun into a brush pile, and then approached
Ms. Hardee and told her that he shot his wife. In the three
briefcases, the police found approximately $110, 000 in cash,
savings bonds, and foreign currency, and various important
documents. Coleman told a police officer that "he
didn't know why he had done it, why did he kill the woman
he loved, they had plans together, plans he made."
Coleman also said, "Why did I kill the woman I loved? We
never fought in 30 years. We had plans together, plans I
made. How could I do such a horrible thing?" Coleman
then told the officer that his blood sugar was dropping.
May 2013, the State indicted Coleman for first degree murder.
Coleman entered a plea of not guilty and gave notice of his
intent to assert the affirmative defense of automatism based
on his low blood sugar at the time of the shooting. Coleman
was diagnosed as a Type I diabetic in 1981 and had a history
of hypoglycemic episodes where his blood sugar dropped to
very low levels. The evidence presented at trial included a
glucometer reading of 39 from 1:22 p.m. on 21 April 2013,
along with a handwritten log of corresponding glucose
readings indicating that the glucometer's date stamps may
have been one day behind, meaning the 39 reading could have
been recorded the day Coleman shot his wife.
trial, Coleman presented expert testimony from Dr. George
Corvin, a psychiatrist Coleman retained to evaluate him. Dr.
Corvin testified that, in his opinion, Coleman was acting in
a state of automatism due to hypoglycemia when he shot his
wife. On cross-examination, over Coleman's objection, the
State questioned Dr. Corvin about the amount of fees he was
paid to testify as a defense expert in criminal cases from
State presented expert testimony from Dr. Warner Burch, an
endocrinologist, who testified that in his opinion, Coleman
was not in a state of automatism due to hypoglycemia at the
time of the offense. This testimony was admitted over
Coleman's objection to Dr. Burch giving an opinion as to
Coleman's state of mind.
jury found Coleman guilty of the lesser-included offense of
voluntary manslaughter. The trial court sentenced Coleman to