Cole case shows appeals process time consuming, tedious - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Cole case shows appeals process time consuming, tedious


SPARTA, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Following Tuesday's motion hearing on the competency of Tammy Cole's defense attorneys, a judge is expected to rule on whether the Illinois woman deserves a new trial.

Cole was convicted of first degree intentional homicide after shooting Vance Evans at his Tomah home in April, 2010.

She was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Cole said during her trial and this week's hearing that she loved Evans – citing a "forever ring" he gave her as a Christmas present in 2009.

She said the shooting was accidental.

But the prosecution and Evans' family argue that he had rejected Cole, and she shot him in the back of the head as revenge.

Attorney Joe Veenstra, of Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC said Tuesday's hearing is known legally as a Machner Hearing.

Veenstra said a Machner Hearing is essentially the final appeal that can be made at the trial court level.

But because arguing an inadequate defense requires a new, appellate lawyer, preparation for the hearing can take time.

"You have to thoroughly review the transcripts and exhibits from trial and you have to meet with the client -- who is often held very far away from where you are," Veenstra said. "Then you might also want to talk to witnesses or talk to jurors to find out if there was an error with the jury process. So it can be extremely lengthy."

Veenstra added Machner Hearings and other post-conviction motions for appeal are common in homicide cases because the stakes of conviction are so high.

But he said getting a conviction tossed out is a tall order.

"Getting reversals does not happen that often," Veenstra said. "It does happen and there are errors committed during trial. There are even errors committed by trial counsel that result in prejudice to a defendant in some cases."  

"But it is pretty rare to get a conviction reversed," he reiterated.

If the Judge in Cole's case does not grant her a new trial, her case would then go before the Court of Appeals.

Veenstra said the appeals court seldom hears oral arguments.

Instead, its clerks and judges review the transcripts and documentation of previous trial proceedings searching for errors.

But Veenstra said the Court of Appeals is also very busy and thus takes a lot of time to review all the necessary information.

If Cole's case advances to the appellate level, he said all the necessary procedures make it likely a decision would come in roughly one year.

The Judge's decision regarding Tuesday's hearing is tentatively scheduled for mid-February. 

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