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Lawyers for the man accused of killing his own children with a spear gun because he was radicalized by QAnon conspiracy theories are seeking to delay his trial by six months to properly assess his mental health.
In a joint motion filed with the prosecutors, Matthew Coleman’s team of public defenders say they are seeking a continuance until May of 2022, to allow them to sift through a huge amount of evidence they expect to find on several digital devices belonging to the defendant.
Coleman is being represented by the public defender’s office, led by Cuauhtemoc Ortega. In the motion filed with the court, Ortega says the defense “needs more time to fully investigate potentially mitigating circumstances, including Coleman’s mental health and personal history. The defense estimates a thorough investigation will take several months at least.”
Under the law, defendants are meant to face trial within 70 days of their first appearance in court, but lawyers for both sides argue in this motion that the complexity of this case warrants a delay.
“The case is also unusually complex because of the nature of the prosecution, potential penalty, and potential mental health defense,” the lawyers write.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California has already handed over 42.5 GB of data to Coleman’s lawyers, which includes “reports by state and federal agencies, audio and video recordings, transcripts, photographs, subpoenaed records, and legal pleadings.”
Later this week, the prosecutors plan to hand over “cell site data, Mexican law enforcement reports, photographs and recordings of or from the area of the murders, jail recordings, and videos from the Port of Entry.”
And investigators are also still sifting through Coleman’s digital life. They have seized a computer, two phones, and an iPad, which are currently being searched. In the motion, the prosecutors say they’ll be able to share “a mirror image of the computer’s entire drive and the full Cellebrite downloads for the phones and iPad” with Coleman’s lawyers by the end of this week.
This data is likely to be key as prosecutors seek to establish how Coleman was radicalized.
Coleman, 40, was a deeply devout Christian who ran a surf school with his wife, Abby, and appeared to have an idyllic life in Santa Barbara with their two young children.
That was shattered on August 7, when Coleman allegedly took both children and traveled to a resort in Mexico before brutally murdering them. When he was arrested crossing back into the U.S., he admitted to FBI agents that he had killed his two children, describing in gory detail how he had used a spear gun.
He also claimed that QAnon and other conspiracies had “enlightened” him, and he believed his children were going to “grow into monsters.” Coleman told the FBI agent interviewing him that he felt the only way to “save the world” was to murder his own children.
But last month, during a preliminary court hearing, Coleman entered a not-guilty plea.
The continuance motion, which was filed on Oct. 26 and has yet to be ruled on by the judge, calls for a delay “because of the amount of discovery so far, the nature of the allegations, and the need for the defense to investigate the offense and circumstances.”
Adding to the complexity of the case is that Coleman may end up facing the death penalty.
“In addition, the Attorney General must decide whether to seek the death penalty. Part of that process includes opportunities for the defense to present arguments and information in mitigation to the United States Attorney’s Office and officials at the Department of Justice,” the lawyers wrote.