WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Rallies in Madison and Milwaukee to protest Zimmerman verdict
Several hundred people rallied in Madison and Milwaukee last evening to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. A couple hundred people attended a State Capitol rally where one speaker called this “open season on blacks” and others urged people to stand up against racism. In Milwaukee, about 125 people marched from the Martin Luther King statue down King Drive to the city’s downtown. They chanted “No Justice, no peace.” The group Occupy Milwaukee organized the march. Police reported no problems. On Saturday night in Milwaukee, about 40 protestors against the Zimmerman verdict rallied for a half-hour before breaking up. Another group of 75 gathered around midnight Saturday – and Milwaukee Police arrested one person there for obstructing an officer. Other protests occurred around the country yesterday, as President Obama called for calm. The Justice Department said it was looking into possible civil rights violations against Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. His attorney said prosecutors never had a chance in proving a murder charge – and they should not have brought the case to court regardless of the defendant’s racial status.
It might be a while before the U-S House completes its action on immigration reform. Majority Republicans decided last week to pass several smaller bills, instead of the comprehensive approach approved by the Democratically-controlled Senate. Also, the G-O-P caucus does not agree on what should be done. According to the Gannett News Service, Wisconsin’s five House Republicans are not in lockstep, either. Janesville’s Paul Ryan says a path to citizenship is needed for the 11-million undocumented immigrants who are now in the country. He says changes in the visa and guest worker programs are necessary to help agriculture and other industries grow. Weston Republican Sean Duffy hesitates to approve a path to citizenship – but he says immigrants need some legalization at the same time that the U-S does more to secure its borders. Duffy says he opposes letting the undocumented immigrants vote or get federal entitlements. Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner of Menomonee Falls, Reid Ribble of Sherwood, and Tom Petri of Fond du Lac all say they want to stop immigrants from entering the country before anything is considered for those already here. Sensenbrenner once proposed making it a felony to be in the country illegally, and he’s still opposed to any path to citizenship. Petri said he would favor some legalization – but not until the borders are secured and people have confidence that a new wave of immigrants won’t enter the U-S illegally.
The Milwaukee County Courthouse is partially re-opening today, nine days after an electrical fire heavily damaged the structure. Most of the first three floors are still closed, but the fourth-through-seventh floors are now open – as well as the adjoining Safety Building. Two of the three main courthouse entrances are still closed. Visitors can use a skywalk at the Criminal Justice facility. Criminal trials will resume today for the first time in a week-and-a-half, and there’s one high-profile case on the docket. It’s a scheduled one-day trial for 76-year-old John Spooner, who’s accused of killing a 13-year-old African-American boy over missing guns last year in a case that critics called racially-motivated. Family-and-small claims courts are also re-opening. Most other Milwaukee County government services continue to be provided from other facilities.
The Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese says it will release personnel files of at least one more priest as an investigation wraps up into sex abuse claims filed in the church’s bankruptcy case. The church released files on 42 pedophile priests two weeks ago, as part of a settlement involving sex abuse victims who’ve sued the archdiocese for fraud. Now, church spokesman Jerry Topczewski says the two sides are deciding what to release from another priest’s file – and a second priest who’s under investigation could eventually have his file released. A couple of other cases involve single victims, and will not be released in order to reduce the chance that the victims will be identified. The Milwaukee Archdiocese has 45 priests with verified abuse allegations. One of them – the late Donald Musinski – was not added until after the church filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Musinski served for almost 40 years at parishes in Milwaukee, Belgium, and Johnsburg. He died in 2006.
A 76-year-old Milwaukee man is scheduled to go on trial today for the murder of his 13-year-old neighbor. According to prosecutors, John Spooner believed that young Darius Simmons broke into his house and stole his guns. A couple days later, police said Spooner shot the boy to death while he was taking out his family’s garbage. Spooner has pleaded insanity to the killing. Spooner is white, and Darius is black. Soon after the incident, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition asked the state to consider the killing a hate crime, and to file additional charges besides homicide. That never happened. Neither side has commented on the case lately. A year ago, defense lawyer Franklyn Gimbel promised a strong defense that is not quote, “judged by rallies and meetings of groups of people.”