Killer in spree that left 5 dead loses appeal

October 13, 2009 6:34:13 PM PDT
A former security guard condemned for a shooting rampage in which his ex-wife and four other people were killed lost a federal appeal Tuesday of his conviction and death sentence. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments from Coy Wayne Wesbrook, 51, who was convicted of a November 1997 spree that left five dead at an apartment complex in Channelview, just east of Houston.

Earlier this year, the same court had allowed Wesbrook to move forward with his appeal contending that his trial lawyer was deficient, that an undercover informant was improperly used to obtain incriminating information from him while he was in jail and that his trial judge acted improperly by meeting privately with prosecutors.

But in its ruling Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based appeals court turned down each of the claims, saying the outcome of Wesbrook's case wasn't unreasonable in light of the facts, the evidence presented and the application of law.

Wesbrook's ex-wife, Gloria Jean Coons, 32, was shot and killed at the apartment where she lived. Also killed were Antonio Cruz, 35; Anthony Ray Rogers, 41; Diana Ruth Money, 43; and Kelly Hazlip, 28.

Don Vernay, Wesbrook's appeals attorney, said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, insisting trial lawyers made "egregious mistakes."

"This is a big disappointment," he said. "The other problem is, of course, you've got five victims. It makes things a little more problematic.

"We'll keep at it. That's all we can do."

Testimony at his capital murder trial showed that Wesbrook and Coons were married in 1995 and divorced the following year, but continued seeing each other and began living together again. He moved out in August 1997.

Wesbrook testified that he hoped to reconcile and went to see Coons three months later at her apartment. The four other people were present when he arrived.

Defense attorneys had tried to persuade jurors that Coons provoked Wesbrook by having sex with two of the men. Wesbrook said he tried to leave but Cruz took his keys, so he went to his truck, got his hunting rifle and returned to get his keys. He said he was taunted and after someone threw a beer at him, the rifle "went off," according to court documents.

Then he went outside and waited for police to show up. He told jurors he didn't intend to kill anyone, and just "lost it." Evidence showed Coons was the last to be shot.

Wesbrook's trial was interrupted briefly when prosecutors accused him of trying to have five more people killed, including another ex-wife and several witnesses in the case.

Earlier unsuccessful appeals argued Wesbrook was mentally impaired and under U.S. Supreme Court rulings should be ineligible for the death penalty.

He does not have an execution date.

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