The state Parole Commission will meet April 7 to decide whether Gregory Coulthard should get parole for his 1990 first-degree intentional homicide conviction.
Coulthard is serving a life sentence for his conviction for shooting to death Grant County Deputy Sheriff Tom Reuter on New California Road in the Town of Clifton March 18, 1990.
A Waukesha County jury convicted Coulthard of first-degree intentional homicide four months after the shooting. Iowa County Circuit Judge James Fiedler sentenced Coulthard in September 1990 to life in prison, with first parole eligibility on March 19, 25 years and one day after the shooting.
The Parole Commission held a hearing March 19. The commission is set to meet again April 7, according to Joy Staab, director of public affairs for the state Department of Corrections.
The commission’s decision is expected to be announced about 48 hours after the meeting, Staab said. The commission then will release its final action report after Coulthard has been notified of its decision.
The state Parole Commission handles parole eligibility applications for state inmates before the state truth-in-sentencing law was enacted, which abolished parole for felony convictions with sentences of one year or more in prison. The author of the truth-in-sentencing law was then state Rep. Scott Walker, who now is the governor.
According to the Department of Corrections, the commission’s decision on granting parole is based on:
• Reaching the parole eligibility date — in Coulthard’s case, March 19.
• Having served “sufficient time for punishment of his or her crime(s).”
• Having showed “positive changes in behavior as well as documented progress in programming, treatment and/or educational achievement.”
• Having a “viable” post-parole plan that “offers the offender realistic opportunities for a stable residence, employment, and programming, if needed.”
• “An acceptably reduced level of risk to the public,” including “past criminal and incarceration record, probation and parole violations, security classification, and any unmet treatment or programs needs.”
Coulthard was on probation on a criminal damage to property charge at the time of Reuter’s death.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported last March that the Parole Commission under Walker sharply reduced the number of paroles granted, from 20.5 percent in 2005 to 5.3 percent in 2012 and 6 percent in 2013. The State Journal reported that 2,887 inmates who were eligible for parole as of March 2014 remained in the state prison system.
The commission received letters in favor of and opposed to Coulthard’s parole.
Coulthard’s upcoming parole eligibility date prompted a petition drive to deny parole for Coulthard on the Officer Down Memorial Page, part of ODMP’s No Parole for Cop Killers initiative.
Fiedler sentenced Coulthard under the 1988 “life-means-life” state law that allowed judges to set a parole eligibility date for a life sentence, or to deny a parole date entirely. The earliest date for parole eligibility would have been 13 years and four months; Grant County District Attorney Emil Everix sought 40-year parole eligibility.
Reuter, 38, graduated from Platteville High School and became a full-time deputy in 1985. He was on his way home from his 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift March 18, 1990 when he saw what appeared to be a disabled tractor on New California Road west of Wisconsin 80 around 11:25 p.m.
Coulthard, who was a farmhand on the Lynden Grove Farm outside of Livingston, had taken a tractor from the farm intending to drive to Platteville that night. Coulthard was on probation on a criminal damage to property charge from 1989.
Coulthard was captured by a Dane County K-9 dog shortly after 4 a.m., almost five hours after the shooting.
Reuter was survived by his wife, Diane, and five children, one of whom, Dan, is now a Grant County sheriff’s deputy.
His burial was held at St. Mary Catholic Church in Platteville, attended by an estimated 700 law enforcement officers from throughout the U.S., including a procession to Rock Church Cemetery in Clifton with more than 200 squad cars.
Coulthard’s attorneys, public defenders Seth Stoltz and Dale Pasell, argued that Coulthard should have been convicted of first-degree reckless homicide, instead of intentional homicide. The jury took less than two hours to convict Coulthard of the intentional-homicide charge.
Coulthard appealed his conviction, but the state Court of Appeals denied his appeal in October 1992. Coulthard’s appeal claimed that Fiedler erred when the jury wasn’t polled on its verdict when the verdict was announced. Before Coulthard’s sentencing one month later, the jury was brought back to Lancaster and re-polled on their verdict.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the polling before sentencing meant that “no reasonable possibility exists that one or more jurors not only falsely responded to the collective poll [when the verdict was announced] but also to the individual poll” at sentencing.
The state Supreme Court refused to hear Coulthard’s appeal later in the 1990s.
Coulthard is presently at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution.