Koula attorneys: “Eric is innocent”

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The attorneys who defended Eric Koula say they plan to appeal his conviction.

A jury found the West Salem man guilty Wednesday of fatally shooting his parents, Dennis Koula and Merna Koula, at their Barre Mills home in May 2010 and guilty of forging a $50,000 check from an investment account.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the verdict, Keith Belzer and Jim Koby held an at-times, emotional news conference this morning.

When asked how the family is doing, the attorneys gave one word: devastated.

They said time stood still while waiting for the verdict.

“The moments tick by like hours. Everything is in slow motion. In that moment, the fact that a man’s life is on the line is so present in your thoughts,” said defense attorney Keith Belzer.

It was a moment that came to an end with a word they never wanted to hear: guilty.


“We’re all extremely disappointed and somewhat shocked,” said Belzer.

The verdict was no easier for Koula’s 18-year-old son, Dexter Koula to swallow.

He’s been a fixture in the courtroom during his dad’s trial and was there when the verdict was read.

“He wanted to be there with his dad, and it was gut-wrenching for him,” said defense attorney Jim Koby.

“I was crying too hard to articulate anything that makes sense, but I told him he did everything he could to support his dad. His dad was innocent, we would continue to move forward to prove his dad’s innocence, and he was going to walk out of there like a man, and he was going to walk out of there with me,” he added.

Missing from the courtroom was Eric Koula’s wife, Christine, a decision Koby said was made to protect Koula’s 13-year-old daughter.

“We talked about whether Hadley should be there or whether Hadley shouldn’t be there, and quite frankly, we decided no matter what the verdict was, it was not a place to have Hadley,” said Koby. “Christine wasn’t there because I told Christine to be with Hadley. I reported the verdict immediately to them. Everyone is supporting Eric 100 percent. Christine is supporting Eric 100 percent. The kids are supporting their dad 100 percent.”

The case represents years of work for Belzer and Koby, effort that is difficult for them to put into words.

“It takes heart and soul,” said Koby.

While they may be exhausted, they continue to believe in Koula’s innocence and won’t give up their fight.

“We went to go see him right after the verdict, and the first thing he said is, ‘I didn’t do this’,” said Belzer.

“Eric is innocent. Eric is guilty, in my opinion, of being scared. Eric is guilty, in my opinion, of being stupid. Lying doesn’t make you a murderer. Eric didn’t have to get on the witness stand. He got on the witness stand because he’s an innocent man, and he told the truth,” said Koby.

“There’s nothing about that verdict that has changed that for any of us. We will appeal the case, no question,” said Belzer.

Earlier this week, the prosecution said they are pleased with the verdict but said no one wins, because nothing can bring Dennis and Merna back.

Eric Koula’s sentencing is scheduled for August 20.