Mar 27, 2013

Justice Pat Roggensack Lists Sheriff Who Negligently Incarcerated Freed, Innocent Man

Joseph "Joey" Awe - Another
innocent man goes free. Imprisoned by
negligent law enforcement and
corrupt District Attorney.
Innocents Incarcerated and Freed Show Inappropriate Use of Police Images in Supreme Court Campaigns

Updated - Take a look at Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack's endorsements on her website and a reader will find one Sheriff Kim Gaffney of Marquette County.

But Kim Gaffney, Marquette County Sheriff (1975-present), is responsible, along with the past Marquette County DA [then-Marquette County District Attorney Richard Dufour (2006)], for putting an innocent man behind bars (for arson)—a common occurrence in the American prison-industrial complex.

Joseph "Joey" Awe was convicted in September 2006 because Gaffney and the insurance company (Mt. Morris Mutual Insurance Company) could not find an explanation for a fire that began in the electrical service panel of a 130-year-old building.

The Sheriff and DA blamed Mr. Awe; and the insurance company saved money from having to pay a policy, and Sheriff Gaffney got to fly the flag of law-and-order, after a Sheriff's investigator conducted only one interview with Awe.

They—Sheriff Gaffney, the DA and Mt. Morris Mutual Insurance Company—relied on the discredited practice on "negative corpus," concluding the fire must be intentional because no cause was found.

No evidence implicated Awe.

Wonder if Gaffney will issue an apology.

The innocent Awe spent three years behind bars before a judge ordered his release from incarceration.

The Wisconsin State Journal's Dee Hall deserves special recognition for digging into the case and her superlative investigative reporting throughout this case. Said Awe, "I don't think I would be where I am now (free) if it weren't for (the State Journal). I know I wouldn't."

As Justice Pat Roggensack proudly lists Sheriff Gaffney's name on her endorsements page, one wonders if Rogeensack will renounce Sheriff Gaffney and remove her name from her campaign.

The problem with listing law enforcement officials generally in a run for judge is the presumption that the police and the DA's office are always right and righteous. Nothing could be further from the truth; talk to the folks at your local Innocence Project.

In any event, we have the images of righteousness, goodness and rectitude conveyed through law enforcement and appropriated by political campaigns for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though any jurist knows perfectly well that due process, impartiality and the rule-of-law demand that no class of litigants—not defendants, not campaign contributors, not law enforcement, not the DA's offices—deserve a superior place in a judge's consideration of a legal case, emphatically in the state's highest court of the land.

Justice Pat Roggensack clearly holds a different opinion.
We have written before, 'Don’t worry about the result; just tell me what the law is.'

Such a directive ought to be the mission, objective and goal of every candidate to the justice of the state’s top appellate court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

If one were to ask candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court their commitment to the above principle, one can expect a declaration of absolute fidelity.

But you would not deduce the presence of this judicial ethos from the campaign of Pat Roggensack.

Like the others' before her, her campaign does not offer explanation of the judicial process, the nature of appellate procedures, the role of briefs and arguments in the creation of judicial policy, and the imperative to be impartial; but rather well-crafted political demagoguery.

Now, one can read about the endorsements from police associations, law enforcement officials, and District Attorneys.

What does parading these endorsements mean?

That Pat Roggensack has a disposition in favor of a particular class of litigants?

Judges are supposed to be impartial.

Roggensack should stow the likes of the law-and-order, we’re-tough rhetoric, and instead edify the electorate on the judicial processes, the function of the top appellate court in impartially ascertaining what the law is, and the candidates' ability and dedication to this enterprise.

Electing judges whose job it is to avoid advocacy once in office ought to result in the candidates' insulating themselves from specific communities of interest during the campaign, especailly the likes of Sheriff Kim Gaffney.

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