State overturns conviction of former Hudson manArea News
-- A state appeals court overturned a Hudson man’s armed robbery conviction Tuesday, concluding that a Hudson Police Department detective violated the suspect’s constitutional rights when the officer ignored the man’s request to remain silent and consult a lawyer.
By: Kevin Murphy , Pierce County Herald
MADISON – A state appeals court overturned a Hudson man’s armed robbery conviction Tuesday, concluding that a Hudson Police Department detective violated the suspect’s constitutional rights when the officer ignored the man’s request to remain silent and consult a lawyer.
The District Three Court of Appeals Tuesday threw out Zachary R. Wiegand’s 25-year sentence for a 2003 robbery of an armored car and arson after concluding Detective Jeffrey Knopps continued to question Wiegand after Wiegand invoked his right to remain silent.
After about 1 ½ hours of interrogation, Wiegand said he didn’t want to talk anymore, Knopps then said “well, only thing, Zach,” to which Wiegand replied, “lawyer,” according to the appeals decision.
Wiegand’s statements constituted his unequivocal right to remain silent and request for an attorney, which Knopps violated by continuing to question Wiegand, according to the opinion.
“They really wanted to get this guy,” said Brian Findley Wiegand’s appeals attorney. “He (allegedly) got away with a lot of money, and they wanted to get the guy who did it.”
Law enforcement wanted the person who shot a woman in Minnesota, stole her mini-van and on May 29, 2003, used it to rob an armored car at gunpoint in Hudson. The robber made off with $238,000 and police later found the Caravan burning at a nearby cemetery.
Five years later police recovered a handgun with a partly obliterated serial number and through forensic testing determined it had been used in the Minnesota shooting. Police narrowed the gun to 10 possible purchasers and ultimately determined Wiegand bought the gun on March 13, 2003, and used it in the van theft and armored car robbery.
Law enforcement from Polk, St. Croix and Washington counties arrested Wiegand while at his Walmart job and transported him to the Polk County jail for questioning. Polk County officer Roy Joy interviewed Wiegand for 60 to 90 minutes about alleged welfare fraud, before Knopps took over.
After Wiegand invoked his right to remain silent and mentioned a lawyer he changed his mind and the interrogation continued. Wiegand confessed to the shooting in Minnesota and the armored car robbery.
Police obtained multiple search warrants and gathered evidence that linked him to the crimes.
After being charged, Wiegand’s attorney tried to get his client’s statements suppressed but Knopps testified that Wiegand never clearly indicated he wanted an attorney. After Circuit Judge Eric Lundell refused to suppress Wiegand’s confession, Wiegand pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison to be served concurrently with the sentence he received in Minnesota.
On appeal Finley argued that police must immediately cease all questioning after a person in custody invokes his right to remain silent. Questioning can only resume under facts not existent in this case.
“In fact, in this case the interrogating officer made no attempt to comply with Wiegand’s clear invocation of the right to silence, but kept right on interrogating Wiegand. Because the officer did not honor the invocation of the right, Wiegand’s subsequent agreement to continue the questioning was tainted and legally irrelevant,” Finley wrote in an appeals brief.
The state argued on appeal that Wiegand didn’t clearly invoke his right to silence but the appeals court disagreed.
“Instead, Knopps pressed on with the interrogation, stating he was just trying to help Wiegand, and then applying further pressure by referring again to Wiegand’s police officer father,” Judge Michael Hoover wrote in the seven-page opinion.
Dana Brueck, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Attorney General's office, which handled the appeal in the case, said, "we are reviewing the decision in order to evaluate whether a petition for review (with the Wisconsin Supreme Court) will be filed."
St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson wasn’t available for immediate comment Tuesday morning.
Finley said the state can re-try Wiegand on the robbery and arson charges but can’t use the evidence gathered from by his unlawfully obtained confession.
Wiegand currently has an April 10, 2017, anticipated release date from the Minnesota state prison at Stillwater, for an attempted murder conviction in Washington County.