Representative Cases

State v. O'Brien 2014 WI 54, 354 Wis. 2d 753, 850 N.W.2d 8

Issue:  Defense challenge to state's sole reliance on hearsay at preliminary hearing to obtain bind over for trial.  Recently enacted legislation allowed use of hearsay at preliminary hearings, changing long-standing law and practice in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Supreme Court found new law did not violate defendant's constitutional rights to confront witnesses, compulsory process, effective assistance of counsel or due process.  However, court reaffirmed duty of trial courts to exercise justment in determining whether prosecution's hearsay is reliable enough to justify bind over, and defense counsel retains rights of cross-examination and right to present evidence and argue against findings of probable cause.

State v. Schaefer 2008 WI 25, 308 Wis. 2d 279, 746 N.W.2d 457

Issue:  Cutting-edge litigation to obtain police reports prior to preliminary hearing so defense attorneys could be prepared to challenge state's case at the hearing.  Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected defense use of subpoenas, noting that while defense reasons made good sense, it was up to legislature to change present rules, as constitution did not require such defense access.

Oswald v. Bertrand 374 F.3d 475 (7th Cir. 2009)


Issue:  United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This was a federal habeas corpus action seeking to overturn unfavorable state court rulings. The Seventh Circuit, and the federal district court below, granted habeas corpus and overturned the state court rulings and ordered new trial in bank robbery and homicide of police captain during escape. This was a very high publicity and controversial case, made more so by the happenstance that a television crew filmed a live gun battle and capture of the suspects. Jury bias arose during jury selection but trial court refused proper investigation. Federal courts ordered new trial.

State v. Armstrong 2005 WI 119, 283 Wis. 2d 639, 700 N.W.2d 98


Issue:  One of the oldest cases in the country where DNA tests resulted in reversal of conviction. In this 1980 murder case, subsequent DNA tests excluded defendant from crucial physical evidence the state used at trial to convict. Despite new evidence of innocence, state refused to admit mistaken conviction and lengthy appeals have occurred. In May 2004, the court of appeals conceded "this is an extremely close case. It is not possible to tell from this record whether Ralph Armstrong is innocent or guilty." Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals felt bound by earlier case decisions and refused to grant a new trial. The Wisconsin Supreme Court disagreed and REVERSED the conviction. Mr. Armstrong was wrongly imprisoned for more than 25 years and continually maintained his innocence.

State ex rel Tate v. Schwartz 257 Wis. 2d 40, 654 N.W.2d 438 (2002)


Issue:  Wisconsin Supreme Court held the state's revocation of a defendant's probation for his refusal to admit to the crime while he was appealing his conviction was illegal and ordered the defendant immediately released from prison.

State v. Agnello 226 Wis. 2d 164, 593 N.W.2d 427 (1999)


Issue:  This homicide case had lengthy appeals for more than seven years, including twice in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. First appeal to Wisconsin Supreme Court (see below) reversed illegally held motion hearing on the question of police coercion to obtain confession from defendant. On second appeal the Wisconsin Supreme Court was evenly divided and therefore returned the case to the court of appeals, which ultimately held that the defendant was entitled to a new trial. Court of appeals did not agree, however, that statements given to police by murder suspect after 13 hours in custody with no sleep and long periods shackled to the wall should be suppressed as involuntarily coerced.

State v. Brienzo 267 N.W.2d 349, 671 N.W.2d 700 (2003)

Issue:  Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that State's use of child enticement and sexual assault statures to charge defendant in Internet sting case is not barred by the constitution, but state must elect which charge to proceed under before trial. Defendant traveled to meet undercover agent at restaurant, and was immediately arrested and charged, even though there was no real child involved and defendant never met face-to-face with any real child.

State v. Davidson 236 Wis. 2d 537, 613 N.W.2d 606 (2000)

613 N.W.2d 236 Wis. 2d 537 and
589 N.W.2d 222 Wis. 2d 233

Issue:  Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed Court of Appeals and reinstated conviction, holding other crimes evidence was properly admitted at trial, given "greater latitude rule" in child sex offenses.

State v. Agnello 693 N.W.2d 226 Wis. 2d 164

Issue:  Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated conviction of murder defendant and remanded for new hearing on voluntariness of confession where trial court improperly ordered defendant to answer questions about facts of the murder when he testified at pretrial hearing to suppress statement.

State v. Davidson 589 N.W.2d 222 Wis. 2d 233

Issue:  Court of Appeals reversed conviction for child sexual assault holding other crimes evidence was improperly admitted at trial. This ruling subsequently overturned by Supreme Court.

State v. Hall 557 N.W.2d 207 Wis. 2d 54

Issue:  Wisconsin Supreme Court rules "Drug Tax Stamp" statute unconstitutional infringement of Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

State v. Salmon 471 N.W.2d 163 Wis. 2d 369

(Ct. App. 1991)

Issue:  Court of Appeals establishes rules for factors trial court can consider on application for bail pending appeal.

Milwaukee County v. Gliniecki/ State v. Netteshiem 367 N.W.2d 239 123 Wis. 2d 462

Issue:  Court of Appeals reversed trial court ruling suppressing breathalyzer results from trial due to machine susceptibility to radio frequency interference. Evidence of such problems can be presented to jury to undermine credibility of test result. Earlier trial court order in this case had the effect of suppressing breathalyzer results in hundreds of cases around the state.