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Man appeals conviction in double murder, cites lawyer, judge errors (UPDATE)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — A former West Salem man serving two life sentences for the deaths of his parents has appealed the conviction, saying his lawyers failed him with faulty jury instruction and the judge excluded evidence that supported his innocence.

Eric Koula previously asked for a new trial, but was denied by Circuit Judge Scott Horne in September. The judge said the conviction resulted primarily for Koula’s own lies designed to conceal his role in the murders.

The appeal, filed Tuesday, accuses Horne of allowing testimony plagued with hearsay evidence that was central to Koula’s conviction. His new attorneys claimed in both the retrial motion and the appeal that the judge improperly disallowed that evidence and that jurors heard prejudicial jury instructions.

Koula’s 2012 trial was the longest in La Crosse County history — 14 days of testimony from 57 witnesses and more than two days of jury deliberations, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

Prosecutors argued that Koula shot his parents, Dennis and Merna Koula, in their Barre home in 2010 so he could claim a substantial inheritance. They argued Eric Koula needed the money because he was deeply in debt, had a failing day-trading career and his parents had threatened to cut him off.

Dennis Koula’s brother and co-worker testified that his brother said he was going to stop supporting his kids financially in the days leading up to his murder. But Eric Koula’s new attorneys claim there’s no evidence to support that he knew his parents planned to stop giving him money.

The appeal also is critical of the defense attorneys, saying they didn’t explain their argument that the couple was the unintended target of a hit man who meant to kill one of their neighbors.

The District 4 Court of Appeals will decide whether Koula should get a new trial after the state Department of Justice responds to his appeal.

Information from: La Crosse Tribune,

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