Jun 23, 2021

Wisconsin Dems Block Exoneration Seekers

Image is by Otto Dix, German anti-fascist artist
whose work by confiscated by the NAZIs and
displayed as degenerate art. "The Nazis labeled Dix a
'degenerate,' but the term is better applied to the society
he depicted—cannibalizing itself and hurtling toward
destruction," writes Alina Cohen in The Guardian.
Wisconsin today has veered into fascism, and literally no
elected official challenges the police-prison state which
sends innocents to their doom.
Justice Delayed in Making a Murderer Cases

MADISON, WIS — In a legal spectacle this Spring, Thomas Sowinski of Manitowoc swore in a statement that he saw the prosecution's key trial witness plant the murder victim's RAV4 vehicle on the property of the man convicted of homicide in 2007.

In other words, a credible resident swears he caught conspirators red-handed in a frame-up scheme in Wisconsin's infamous murder case drawing headlines in state post-conviction litigation.

Sowinski appears the stuff of movies — maybe, some mused, in response Wisconsin's new attorney general would seek to vacate two murder convictions, amid a vow to clean up law enforcement in east-central Wisconsin.

Movies are not political reality in Wisconsin.

The case is State of Wisconsin v Steven Avery, featured in the Emmy-winning Making a Murderer docuseries.

Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, were convicted of first-degree homicide for the 2005 murder of a young photographer, Teresa Halbach. Both men are serving life sentences.

Most see the spectacle as revenge prosecutions of innocents in Manitowoc and Calumet counties, an insular region of the state known for small-town justice — injustice.

DOJ delay strategy

The Wisconsin Dept of Justice quickly responded on April 16 to the Sowinski statement, filed by Avery attorney Kathleen Zellner.

The DOJ filing includes unfounded accusations challenging attorney Zellner's ethics, and a bizarre statement complaining about the fact that Avery spotlights more prosecutorial misconduct for allegedly withholding exculpatory evidence — a Brady violation.

The DOJ asserted that the sheer multiplicity of alleged Brady violations in the record should be read against the defense.

Avery's attorney, Zellner, reacted with restrained outrage.

Zellner replied to the Court on April 22: "It is a supreme irony that in one of the most blatant examples of a wrongful conviction the State's only response is to falsely accuse Mr. Avery's lead counsel of nefarious conduct for discovering a 6th Brady violation. Rather than seeking justice, the State wants to 'slay the messenger' by putting forth more false allegations, a skill that it has mastered over the last 16 years. The State turns a blind eye towards its past actions of withholding exculpatory evidence."

The Democratic-led DOJ said nothing about the substance of Sowinski's sworn statement, or that the prosecution apparently failed to notify the defense about this witness after he contacted the Manitowoc Sheriff's department in 2005.

Dems stand with police

What is happening in Wisconsin?

Why is the Democratic-led DOJ defending the work of Kenneth R. Kratz, former Calumet County District Attorney, (1992-2010), who was forced to resign in disgrace in 2010 for outrageous conduct in 2009, just two years after prosecuting the Avery-Dassey cases?

Kratz is self-described as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, sexual compulsion disorder and multiple drug addictions.

Kratz described himself a "dick" for his work as district attorney in which he claimed he could not help himself harassing crime victims because of his disorders for which he was undergoing professional treatment, amid an allegation he possibly assaulted a woman.

Wisconsin Democratic Party officials, Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Joshua Kaul, have made the political decision to work for law enforcement, even Kratz, against the wrongfully convicted.

This is political liberalism at its most vicious and irrational.

One month into his term in 2019, Kaul filed legal responses signaling the DOJ would stall Avery's  possible exoneration by filing procedural objections.

The strategy keeps Avery in prison and delays a hearing in County Circuit court, a move necessary before state appellate courts can rule.

In Wisconsin, January-February weather is colder than July-August, and the Democratic Party loves and supports its cops. It's the way it is.

This political climate is why cops feel free to frame Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. 

It's why cops like Rusten Sheskey feels free to attempt to kill Jacob Blake; and why cops killed and gunned down Paul Heenan, Ashley DiPiazza, and Tony Robinson in Madison.

It's why the racist Wisconsin State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) felt free to travel to Madison during the historic 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, pick a fight with protesters, fake a collapse, and then retaliate against marchers by pressing criminal charges against two women whom he knows to be innocent. Carpenter hates uppity women.

Carpenter told cops he was headed to the state Capitol around midnight on business before he encountered the Black Lives Matter protests.

Gov. Evers shoots down innocents

Gov. Evers joined Kaul in the delaying strategy with Brendan Dassey, convicted co-conspirator with Avery. Dassey petitioned for a commutation in 2019, after losing his Habeas petition 4-3 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a lambasted 2017 decision.

Dassey claims in his 2019 executive clemency petition that Wisconsin's criminal justice system perpetuated an injustice in which the state can have no "confidence."

Reads the petition:

In 2006, Brendan Dassey was a sixteen-year-old Mishicot High School special education student with no criminal history, an IQ of 74, and speech-language functioning in the bottom percentile. After undergoing four police interrogations in 48 hours, he found himself charged with involvement in one of the highest-profile homicides in Wisconsin history – and, subsequently, sentenced to life in prison – based on a videotaped confession about which state and federal judges, national police authorities, prosecutorial groups, and psychological experts have since expressed the gravest doubts.

A member of Dassey's defense team, former U.S. Solicitor General, Seth Waxman, said in Oct 2019 in Madison, "I have never had a case that has troubled me more than this case, that has kept me awake at night, that makes me anxious and sad. And that's because I know that Brendan Dassey is innocent."

Gov. Evers sent Dassey a form letter denying his petition in Dec 2019, stating in part that since Dassey did not wait five years after serving his life sentence, Evers would not consider the plea.

While Oregon and Illinois passed bans this year on lying to juveniles during police interrogations, with some state legislators citing Wisconsin resident Brendan Dassey's ordeal, Evers refuses to consider a pardon for Dassey that looks at the merits of his case.

Tony Evers retains the power to pardon Dassey with the stroke of a pen.

Problem is a pardon or commutation would blow into a political scandal implicating Democratic sheriffs, Kaul's mother, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager (2003-07) among other Democratic Party cops.

Dems and win-at-any costs cops

Democrat Kaul's DOJ team includes a who's who of dubious state DOJ attorneys — Mark Williams, Thomas J. Fallon, and Special Prosecutor Norman Gahn — all of whom have demonstrated misconduct in their work, either destroying evidence or lying about destroying evidence.

After years of Republican Party rule in Wisconsin, people around the world who believe it's immoral to imprison innocents had waited for how the new Democratic attorney general and governor would handle Dassey and Avery's battle for exoneration in 2019.

Next steps

Today, Avery is awaiting the appellate court decision whether to send his case to County Circuit court to hear the Thomas Sowinski statement and other evidence, and the resolution of pending motions.

At a time when our country is questioning law enforcement, Wisconsin Democratic leadership is working against the people . . . for the police.

"We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation," writes Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

The quality of mercy towards the innocent appears to be exhausted under the warrant of Wisconsin Democrats.

[Michael Leon has written for The Progressive, In These Times, CounterPunch and others. Leon is covering the Making a Murderer cases, and has advocated for the release of Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey.]

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