Joseph (Pete) Coleman, 28, was convicted Friday of the second-degree murder of Brenda Ferreira, 24, in a case that drew national attention when it was reported on the CBS television show “60 Minutes”
Ferreira was badly beaten in December, 1981, and died in April, 1982, of her injuries.
Prosecution of the case was taken over by the state when local prosecutors delayed bringing it to trial. The delay by Yuba County authorities in prosecuting Coleman was the focus of the “60 Minutes” report.
Coleman had an angry outburst upon hearing the verdict and had to be forcibly removed from the court, said Alan Ashby, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. Coleman was remanded to custody. He will be sentenced Nov. 4.
Coleman testified during the trial that he never beat Ferreira. However, a former neighbor and Ferreira’s ex-husband both testified that they saw Coleman hit her at various times. Coleman contended that Ferreira was injured in a fall from a porch of the home they shared at Brownsville in the Yuba County foothills.
The case was shifted to Merced County Superior Court because of heavy publicity. It was tried before Judge George C. Barrett.
State authorities have the constitutional right to take over the prosecution of a trial if they think a local entity has not moved quickly enough.
“When we learned what the evidence was, we felt it was good enough to take to court,” Ashby said.