WATERLOO, Ill. (RNS) — Televangelist Joyce Meyer said April 6 she testified “honestly and truthfully” in a closed pretrial deposition in the murder trial of her former bodyguard, Christopher Coleman.
But Meyer said she would honor a request not to reveal the substance of what was said.
The testimony was originally slated to be public, but bailiffs locked the courtroom doors and inexplicably announced that the proceedings would be private.
The doors were briefly reopened after a lawyer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch filed a motion challenging the closed proceedings. Circuit Judge Milton Wharton denied the motion and excluded reporters and the public, saying it was not a public judicial proceeding because he would not be overseeing it.
Wharton said the recordings will be played in open court later, during the trial, giving the public a chance to hear the testimony.
The case — a mix of sex, religion and murder — has commanded nearly constant media attention since Coleman, 34, was charged with first-degree murder in the May 2009 strangulation of his wife, Sheri, and two sons.
Meyer spent about 90 minutes inside the courthouse and made a brief statement as she left. When a reporter inquired whether she was praying for Coleman, she replied, “Certainly.”
Her son, Dan Meyer, chief executive of U.S. operations for the Joyce Meyer Ministries testified later in the day, and would only say that he had testified truthfully.
Joyce Meyer’s arrival at the courthouse marked her first appearance in a public setting connected to the case since May 5, 2009, when she visited Coleman’s home in Columbia, Ill., to show support the morning his family was found slain.
Prosecutors said Meyer will not be available during Coleman’s murder trial; opening statements are scheduled for April 25. Meyer is holding a “conference tour” event April 28-30 in Hampton, Va., according to her website.
Mario DeCicco, Sheri Coleman’s brother, has said he is upset that Meyer is recording a statement in place of appearing at trial in person.
“Three innocent people, including two beautiful boys, lost their lives for absolutely no good reason, and I find Joyce Meyer’s actions to be extremely cowardly and not surprising,” DeCicco said.
At the time of the murders, Christopher Coleman was earning a six-figure salary and traveling around the globe as the security chief for Meyer.
Friends of his wife, Sheri Coleman, have testified that she told them she was afraid of her husband, and that he felt she and the boys were in the way of his career. They also claimed that Sheri Coleman said her husband did not see divorce as an option, because it would cost him his job with Meyers’ organization.
Officials said that Coleman, who was having an affair with a woman in Florida, may have killed his family to escape his marriage without a divorce.
— Nicholas J.C. Pistor
© 2011 St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Used with permission.
Posted April 8, 2011