The state Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the conviction of Eric J. Coleman, a Chisago City man who struck and killed a child while snowmobiling while drunk across a frozen lake in 2018.
The court ruled that Coleman's rights were not affected by faulty jury instructions in his District Court trial, a claim Coleman had made in an unsuccessful appeal of his third-degree murder conviction.
Coleman argued that the jury was incorrectly told to weigh his guilt by determining whether he acted in a reckless manner with the knowledge that someone might be killed.
The District Court had relied on the model jury instructions from guidelines developed by the Minnesota District Judges Association, but Coleman argued that recklessness, as defined in state law, requires more than the knowledge that someone may be killed. It also requires the knowledge that the conduct created a substantial risk of causing death, he argued.
The Appeals Court agreed that the jury instruction was faulty but ruled that it didn't infringe on Coleman's rights. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling and suggested new language for jury instructions in cases considering a charge of third-degree depraved-mind murder.
The death of 8-year-old Alan Geisenkoetter led to the closing of a loophole in state law that allowed drivers with DWIs to legally drive boats, snowmobiles and ATVs.
Less than three months before striking Geisenkoetter, Coleman was driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .304 when he caused a crash and seriously injured another driver.
Coleman is serving his time at the correctional facility in Moose Lake and has an expected 2027 release date, according to state documents.
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329