CRIME AND COURT ROUNDUP: Rock County the next county to issue licenses to same-sex couples
Rock County will be among the next to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, after Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled late Friday that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Almost 300 same-sex couples in Dane and Milwaukee counties received marriage licenses Friday night and Saturday, as their courthouses stayed open for extended hours. The Rock County clerk's office said it would start issuing licenses when it opens at eight this morning. They'll be sold only to Rock County residents -- including those in Janesville and Beloit -- and out-of-staters who plan to marry in the county. Meanwhile, officials in Brown County say they'll wait for guidance from the state before proceeding. State Attorney General J-B Van Hollen has questioned the legality of issuing same-sex marriage licenses in the wake of Judge Crabb's ruling. He has filed an emergency request to have Crabb set her decision aside while the state appeals. Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said the marriages performed over the weekend might be put in limbo by a court stay. In Milwaukee, same-sex couples were gathering anyway for the city's Pridefest over the weekend -- and many took advantage of the opportunity to tie the knot. Wisconsin's ruling was the 15th straight pro-gay-marriage ruling in lower courts since the U-S Supreme Court threw out key parts of the Defense-of-Marriage Act last summer.
A man faces a possible drunken homicide charge, after a crash that killed his passenger in Kenosha County. Authorities said the two men were heading home from a tavern when the vehicle lost control on a curve, slid into a ditch, hit a culvert, rolled over several times, struck a fire hydrant, and knocked down a utility pole. It happened just before two a-m yesterday on Highway 45 west of Kenosha. The driver was treated at a Kenosha hospital, and was then sent to jail pending charges. The other man died at the scene. Investigators said speed was also a possible factor. The names of the two men were not immediately released.
The Wisconsin Justice Department is expected to ask a federal appeals court today to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Attorney General J-B Van Hollen asked Federal Judge Barbara Crabb for a similar stay last Friday night, just hours after she ruled the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. Crabb's ruling was silent on whether Wisconsin counties could start issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. Dane County officials in Madison were ready to do so before the judge's ruling came down -- and couples attending Milwaukee's weekend Pride-Fest took advantage and tied the knot. Almost 300 same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses and took advantage of what could be a very short window. Rock County, at Janesville and Beloit, has said it would start issuing similar licenses today.
In a break from tradition, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is limiting the time it spends in deliberating individual cases. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the court voted 5-to-2 in late May to limit its discussions, at the suggestion of Justice Patrick Crooks. The court faces a self-imposed June 30th deadline to resolve its cases, and some high-profile matters remain to be decided. They include the constitutionality of the Act-10 public union bargaining limits, and whether the U-W can ban student fee protester Jeffrey Decker from its campuses. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that 46-of-60 cases are still pending, and the two high-profile cases might have to wait until the court's next term in September. Abrahamson says justices should schedule more deliberation meetings, instead of limiting discussions on each case. She said it would compromise the quality of the Supreme Court's opinions. However, the court's four conservatives all agreed with swing justice Crooks. He proposed a 15-minute time limit for the lead authors of opinions pro-and-con, and five minutes for other justices. The Journal Sentinel also said an internal e-mail from Crooks indicated that he'll retire in 2016. The 76-year-old Crooks is nearing the end of his second ten-year term. There's been speculation about whether Crooks would retire -- and a vacancy could pave the way for outgoing Attorney General J-B Van Hollen to run for the high court.
The defense could start making its case as early as today, as the reckless homicide trial of a central Wisconsin man enters its second week. Twenty-eight year old Reymundo Perez of Bancroft is accused of throwing his girlfriend's two-year-old son to the ground because he wouldn't stop crying. Felix Espinoza-Villa died two days after the incident in late October of 2011. Last week's testimony focused on prosecution witnesses and recorded interviews. Among other things, they showed where the child's mother had struck the youngster with a belt or a sandal -- and the defense is expected to argue that the injuries which killed Felix are due to the mother's actions. Perez is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and felony child abuse. The trial is scheduled to run through Thursday in Portage County Circuit Court.