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Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds homicide reversal

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the reversal of a murder conviction, after the reversal was appealed. The supreme court’s ruling came on a recent Thursday. The decision was close, four justices were in favor of upholding the reversal and three were not. The primary issue was whether the statements that the defendant made to prosecutors during unfinished plea bargain negotiations could be used against the defendant at trial.

According to the law, when defendant makes statements during guilty plea bargain negotiations, but the plea deal does not get finalized, those statements cannot be used against the defendant at trial. In this case, prosecutors tried to argue that the man did not actually offer to plead guilty in the plea negotiations, even though they had offered him the option, and therefore, his statements could be used. Nevertheless, the majority ruling stated that only the accused individual could offer a guilty plea. The justice further wrote that a confession is not necessarily a plea of guilty and that statements made in connection with plea offers cannot be used against defendants.

The homicide case and conviction related to an execution-style killing of a witness who saw a shooting take place in Milwaukee. The 24-year-old witness was shot outside his parents’ residence after testifying in a different shooting case, even after he was threatened and bribed not to. Following the shooting, a new type of witness protection program was created to thwart these kinds of events in the future.

Technicalities of Wisconsin law often come into play during criminal proceedings relating to violent crimes like this one. Sometimes, the issues are not entirely clear-cut, as can be seen in the close 4-3 opinion by the supreme court in this case. For this reason, it is crucial for defendants to be highly familiar with the statutes, case law and other technicalities that come into play during their criminal court proceedings.

Source: Journal Sentinel, "The state Supreme Court upheld a reversal of a homicide conviction", Bruce Vielmetti, July 10, 2014

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