Mother hopes and waits for stay of son's execution Va. Gov. Wilder, appeals court reject requests.

May 19, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

TAYLOR, Mich. -- As hope dimmed and Roger Keith Coleman waited on Virginia's death row for his life to end, his mother was waiting, too.

Inside her tidy brick home in Taylor, a red-eyed Mary Hulslander got the news yesterday that Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder had refused to halt the scheduled execution of her son tomorrow.

Hours later, a three-judge federal appeals court also turned down a request for a stay of execution.

Coleman, 33, who has consistently proclaimed his innocence, is scheduled to die in the electric chair for the 1981 rape-slaying of his sister-in-law.

But while an investigator continued a last-ditch search for overlooked evidence and witnesses in the small southwestern Virginia coal mining town where the crime occurred, there was nothing left for Ms. Hulslander to do but listen to news reports, take calls from relatives and wait.

"There's still hope. Until 11 p.m. Wednesday, there's still hope," said the 51-year-old waitress.

Coleman's plight has garnered in ternational publicity -- including the cover of Time magazine last week -- as troubling questions have arisen about the handling of his case and the evidence used against him.

But prosecutors say the case against him is solid and it has stood repeated reviews. Coleman was convicted on killing Wanda Fay McCoy on March 10, 1981 but Ms. Hulslander doesn't believe he is guilty.

"My son didn't do it. I know that," she said. "I think they're framing him because he was in trouble before."

Coleman, a former coal miner, had served time for attempted rape.

Still to come: asking the full appeals court for a rehearing and finally, taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which frowns on such emergency appeals.

If those fail and the state wins its battle to strap Coleman into the electric chair, Ms. Hulslander plans to be in Virginia tomorrow night.

But she won't be outside the prison where her son will die.

She'll be some 250 miles west, in Grundy, Va., where the crime occurred, secluded with relatives.

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