LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - We'll know later this summer if a new trial is coming for a West Salem man convicted of killing his parents.
Attorneys for Eric Koula argued Friday afternoon that ineffective counsel in the June, 2012 trial led to an unfair conviction and life prison sentence. With Koula sitting next to them in orange La Crosse County Jail clothing, they made their case in front of original trial Judge Scott Horne.
They called three of the original attorneys on Koula’s defense team, Keith koula, James Koby, and Nicholas Thompson.
Much of the testimony Friday surrounded the testimony of Leroy Koula which the original defense was unable to keep from jurors. Attorney Koby argued at length that the testimony was hearsay and prejudicial to the jury. Judge Horne overruled the objection and allowed the testimony. What Leroy Koula told jurors was about a conversation he’d had with Dennis Koula in which Dennis said he was going to cut off financial support to the ‘kids’. It wasn’t known whether that referred to Eric or his sister and her husband, or all three.
One of the original defense attorneys, Nicholas Thompson, said that the ruling allowing the testimony was “devastating” for the defense. In an attempt at what the attorneys referred to as ‘damage control’, they discussed a strategy that changed the wording of one of the jury instructions from the word “children” to “kids”. The thought at the time of the trial in June, 2012, was that the word children referred to biological and pointed more at Eric and his sister. By changing the word, the defense felt it helped include Eric’s sister and her husband as having reason to kill Dennis and Merna Koula.
The couple was found shot to death in their Barre Mills home in May, 2010.
Rather than take oral arguments, Judge Horne allowed both the defense and District Attorney Tim Gruenke to submit written arguments to the court.
Once Judge Horne reviews the transcripts of the testimony and the arguments, he told both sides he'll issue a ruling sometime by late July or early August.
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