Charismatic Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer will not be required to submit a deposition for the murder trial of one of her ministry's former employees, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Monroe County Circuit Judge Dennis Doyle said lawyers from plaintiff's side waited too long to depose Meyer and other ministry officials and that the deadline to do so had passed. Under the law, depositions have to be taken within six months after the respondents in discovery in a civil case are named.
"I am without authority to order them to comply with discovery," Doyle said, after reading the statute, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.
Doyle also declined to certify his ruling, making it difficult – though not impossible – for his decision to be appealed by a higher court.
Despite the ruling, Meyer can still be added as a defendant in the case against 32-year-old Christopher Coleman if the judge decides to grant the motion scheduled to be made in court later this month.
And whether or not the motion is granted, a lawyer for the family of Coleman's slain wife says he will "absolutely" question Meyer on the stand.
But attorney Jack Carey admitted to a local CBS affiliate that the questions he can ask will be restricted in light of Doyle's ruling Tuesday.
Presently, Christopher Coleman is charged with the murders of his wife, Sheri Coleman, 31, and their sons, Gavin, 9, and Garett, 11, whose bodies were found on May 5, 2009.
Coleman was working as a security guard for Joyce Meyer Ministries at the time of the murders and had called police from a gym that day to ask for an officer to check on his family after calls to the house allegedly went unanswered.
When police got to the house later that morning, they found the bodies of Coleman's family strangled with some type of wire, rope or cord. Spray-painted across the walls of the house, meanwhile, were obscenities that appeared to have been directed at Sheri Coleman, including the words "punished," "wh*re paid," "u have paid," and "I saw you leave, [expletive] you, I am always watching."
Though some of the Colemans' neighbors said the family had received threatening letters and that their mailbox was tampered with, police arrested Coleman around two weeks later after more evidence came forward.
One week prior to his arrest, Coleman resigned from his position at Joyce Meyer Ministries after being questioned about a violation of the organization's moral conduct policy.
Roby Walker, a spokesman for Joyce Meyer, would not say what policy Coleman allegedly violated but initial reports claimed that he was romantically involved with a woman from Largo, Fla., and had visited her while traveling with the ministry.
That woman was later identified to be Tara Lintz, a high school friend of Sheri Coleman.
Christopher Coleman, who pleaded "not guilty" on May 20, has since remained in jail and been denied bond by the judge.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.