On July 27, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin sent an open records request to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. It was seeking reports on the operations of the state crime lab and whether there continue to be backlogs in processing evidence. Hours after the request was filed, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that he would authorize overtime and create 11 part-time positions to help law enforcement collect DNA samples and other evidence.
We can probably all agree that this election season has been pretty light on hard facts. For example, it appears that some Americans have the misimpression that murder is currently at its highest rate in 45 years. In fact, just the opposite is true.
Cold cases are frustrating for law enforcement agencies and can be devastating to the families of victims. When a missing-persons case goes unsolved, for example, the family may suffer what has been called “dubious grief.” Until they see a body, they may not be able to accept that their loved one is gone.
In our post last week, we began a discussion about the high number of exonerations in the U.S. in recent years. In 2013, for example, at least 87 people in the United States were exonerated, many of whom had spent years or even decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. There has been at least one wrongfully convicted individual exonerated here in Wisconsin within the past couple years.
How do you compensate someone for the loss of years of their life? How do you compensate someone after wrongfully taking away their freedom? How do you compensate someone after destroying their reputation by erroneously accusing them of a horrible crime? In short, what compensation would possibly be appropriate for individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned?
A Wisconsin judge ruled that a man was not correctly tried when he was convicted of killing his wife on the strength of a letter she wrote to a neighbor. The widower was sent to prison for life in 2008 for the poisoning homicide, which seemed to be the fate his wife was expressing fear about in the letter claiming that her husband wanted her dead. That implication led to his being taken into custody on murder charges in 2002, four years after the woman died. In the most recent action, the judge vacated that trial result because the man had no opportunity to confront his accuser.
In Milwaukee, violent offenses often result in serious criminal charges and stiff penalties. An individual accused of a violent crime, such as homicide, risks reputational damage along with jail or prison time. Sometimes, individuals are accused of serious criminal offenses that they did not commit. In these cases, individuals should be thoroughly prepared for trial and understand the defenses that may apply.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes, these mistakes have consequences that may affect not only our lives, but also the lives of our family and friends. In Wisconsin, homicide is one of the most serious criminal offenses and carries significant penalties. A Wisconsin student may be charged with this serious offense after a man was found dead in the student's dorm room.