Morning State News Briefs: Appeals court punts Neumann case over to state Supreme CourtWisconsin News
-- A state appeals court won’t touch the question of whether a Wausau area couple should get new trials for praying instead of getting medical help for their dying daughter. The Third District Appellate Court said today that the State Supreme Court should be the ones to study the facts and make the decision
WAUSAU - A state appeals court won’t touch the question of whether a Wausau area couple should get new trials for praying instead of getting medical help for their dying daughter. The Third District Appellate Court said today that the State Supreme Court should be the ones to study the facts and make the decision.
That’s because the case of Dale and Leilani Neumann is the first of its kind in Wisconsin – similar cases could come up again – and courts in other states have mixed opinions on the subject. The Neumanns were both convicted of second-degree reckless homicide in separate Marathon County trials. Their 11-year-old daughter Kara died on Easter Sunday of 2008 after her parents practiced faith healing instead of getting medical help, as she developed complications of treatable diabetes. The couple said their juries failed to recognize that faith healing is allowed under state law. Leilani Neumann also said her defense lawyer was ineffective, and Dale said Leilani’s conviction might have urged his jury to convict him as well. Circuit Judge Vincent Howard refused to accept those arguments when he rejected the Neumanns’ requests for new trials last year. Dale Neumann’s lawyer said that if the appellate court had ruled, the losing side probably would have appealed to the Supreme Court anyway. If the justices don’t take the case, the Neumanns’ original convictions will stand. Both were sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years’ probation, but the jail time is on hold pending their appeal.
A Verona man was sentenced yesterday to three-and-a-half years in prison for causing the death of a friend in a drunk driving crash. 36-year-old Chad Spurley held back tears, saying he was ashamed for driving his SUV into a tree just over a year ago. He was drinking and celebrating with co-workers that night. The crash killed 36-year-old Davi Dohm, a passenger in the SUV. Spurley’s blood alcohol level at the time was point-23, almost three times the legal limit for drunk driving. Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan said Spurley’s “outrageous behavior” led to the crash – including a stretch in which the defendant drove 89-miles-an-hour in a 45-zone.
What started as part of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement is being broken up today in Madison. Circuit Judge Amy Smith said members of the Occupy Madison encampment have until noon to pack up their belongings and leave. She denied a temporary restraining order yesterday which would have prevented the city from removing the camp. Police say they expect a peaceful departure. The encampment started last fall in a vacant city-owned parking lot about a mile northeast of the State Capitol. Around 60 people slept there on Sunday night. The judge rejected the Occupy group’s arguments that their constitutional rights of assembly and free expression are being violated. The site opened last October, when Occupy movements across the country protested economic-and-social injustice. But the Wisconsin State Journal said the camp had settled mainly into a mini-village for the homeless. Mayor Paul Soglin said the site was rampant with illegal drugs, property crimes, and assaults. He says it will be considered a hazardous waste site when it’s cleaned up, due to reports of needles and bodily fluids. A number of camp members staged a protest rally outside the mayor’s office yesterday. Sharon Gulseth said many of the camp’s residents would go back to sleeping in the City/County government building or State Street in downtown Madison. Some protestors scouted out another site, which officials rapidly fenced up late in the day.
People who live on Madison’s Mifflin Street say they are already getting ready for this year’s block party. After last year’s trouble-filled event, some say they lock valuables away from windows. It got bad last year and new rules are in place to control the activities this time. Those new rules don’t allow music or drinking in the street. Police have no plans to block of the streets to traffic and almost every house plans to have a “No Trespassing” sign in place. Police hope their promise of strict enforcement will make the event smaller, but the unknown factor in the equation is the sometimes hundreds of partiers who come from out of town. Police say illegal house parties are the big problem – and if they can slow that kind of activity down, it will be a good start. Of the 162 people arrested at last year’s Mifflin Street Block Party, 120 came from a school outside of Madison, or else they didn’t supply that information to police when they were taken into custody.
An investigation continues into a fiery weekend truck crash that killed three Stevens Point area residents. An autopsy identified them yesterday as 19-year-old Joey Trzebiatowski of the town of Linwood, 25-year-old Nicholas Czech of Stevens Point, and 29-year-old Scott Dean of Whiting. The crash happened early Sunday on Highway 66, about four miles southwest of Point. Portage County authorities said the truck went off the right side of the road, overcorrected, veered into the left ditch, hit a utility pole and an embankment, and landed on its right side. The truck caught fire, and one of the three was ejected. Officials say alcohol, speed, and a lack of seat-belt use are all apparent factors.
Despite some frosty mornings, Wisconsin farmers have planted almost one-fifth of their corn crop. Officials say 18-percent of the corn is in the ground – 12-percent more than last week, and six-percent ahead of the average for the past five years. Eighty-percent of the oat crop has been planted, compared to the norm of 47-percent. About one-percent of Wisconsin’s soybeans are planted. Meanwhile, growers are still assessing damage caused by lower temperatures and a return to frost in April. A reporter in Waupaca County says there appears to be a 50-percent loss to the early strawberry crop – but officials say it’s still too early to assess damage to berries, grapes, and apples. Some winter wheat frost damage is reported in Waukesha, Rock, and Kenosha counties. There’s some frost damage to alfalfa leaves as well.
Home prices in Metro Milwaukee have dropped the most among major U.S. metro areas so far this year. That’s according to a report from Clerk Capital, a California research firm. It says Metro Milwaukee’s average home prices have dropped 12-and-a-half percent since January, while Chicago’s prices fell just one-percent. Phoenix had the largest increase, at eight-point-four percent. Clear Capital blames Milwaukee’s big drop on the large number of distressed properties taken over by banks – and it’s said to be dragging market prices down.
A veteran Milwaukee police officer is under a 30-day suspension after he got into a drunk driving accident last fall while off-duty. According to city records, Jon Parker had four-or-five beers at dinner last October while on a hunting trip in Washington County – and then drove into a ditch on his way home. In a complaint to the Fire-and-Police Commission, Chief Ed Flynn said Parker fell asleep before driving into the ditch. No one was hurt. His blood alcohol level was point-11 at the time, and he was cited for first time drunk driving. It was also Parker’s first discipline with the Milwaukee police force. He’s a 21-year veteran of the department.
A Wisconsin man is among nine people charged in a cigarette smuggling case. The nine suspects are accused of trying to avoid more than four and a half million dollars in state and local taxes by transporting unstamped cigarettes between locations. The indictments charge them with contraband cigarette trafficking. Two of the nine suspects also face charges of possession of bogus tax stamps. The Wisconsin suspect is from Oak Creek.
Two separate traffic accidents in West Allis over a time period of just five hours leave a mother and her son dead. Mary Moore died in a hit-and-run crash on 81st Street early yesterday morning. The driver suspected of hitting her was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident. Then, at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, her son, Thomas Olson, was killed in a rollover crash. Police think Olson was on his way to see his mother in the hospital. Investigators think it’s possible alcohol was a factor in both fatal accidents.
The manufacturing economy of southeast Wisconsin kept expanding in April. That’s according to a monthly survey by Marquette University and Milwaukee’s Institute for Supply Management. A seasonally-adjusted index rose from 51.8 in March to 52.9 right now. Anything over 50 indicates growth. The survey pointed out that some factories are working 24-7 to keep up with orders – and they’ve got more equipment on order. But the report also said some production spikes were due to economic uncertainty down the road. The survey’s blue-collar hiring index fell from 57.3 last month to 51.6 this month.
A federal appeals court said Waukesha Police used excessive force when they shot rubber bullets at the legs of a suspected drunk driver seven years ago. Tamara Phillips was hit four times – and she suffered a gash in one of her ankles that needed 30 stitches. Waukesha Police said the license plate on Phillips’ car indicated that she was driving a stolen vehicle. But another officer later said Phillips actually said her own vehicle was stolen – and when she bought a replacement car, she used the same license number. A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that police used unreasonable force – especially because Phillips did not resist officers when she was stopped. A jury ruled in favor of the police, but the appellate judges said they had the right to review the jury’s interpretation of what was reasonable under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.
Governor Scott Walker said he will not use direct tax revenues to pay for a $100-million plan to bring jobs and new residents to Milwaukee’s poorest areas. Walker announced a five-point plan today to revive inner city areas – especially an industrial corridor where many industrial buildings have long been vacant. The main goals include adding two-thousand jobs to those areas, and getting people to move into many homes which are now vacant due to foreclosure. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority would sell tax-exempt bonds to private investors, with the proceeds to provide things like business expansions, new apartments, and more transportation to the area. Buyers of those bonds would be exempt from state-and-local taxes. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper says it would let developers and business reduce their borrowing costs, thus making it a tax subsidy. Economic authority secretary Wyman Winston says the project has been in the works for a year. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told a news conference today that he’s pleased the governor wants to work with the city on creating jobs. But he questioned the timing of Walker’s announcement, coming 36 days before he stands for a recall election. Barrett is a Democratic candidate for that election. He faces three other Democrats in a primary a week from tomorrow.
A Wisconsin dairy industry leader is heading up an effort to raise up to $32-million to renovate a 60-year-old dairy plant on the UW-Madison campus. Babcock Hall is best known for serving unique-and-fun flavors of ice cream. It’s also the home of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, which trains people to work in the state’s multi-billion-dollar dairy industry. Dave Fuhrmann, the CEO of Foremost Farms in Baraboo, is leading up a campaign for Babcock Hall that has raised six-million-dollars so far. By August, he hopes it can raise at least $16-million. Fuhrmann says the current dairy teaching and research facility is so antiquated, it’s almost an embarrassment that it’s in America’s Dairyland. An expansion of Babcock Hall would require approval from the UW Board of Regents before it could be placed in next year’s state budget – in which lawmakers and the governor would have to approve it.
Five small museums in Milwaukee are working together to promote each other. Officials say visitors often overlook the Museum of Wisconsin Art at Saint John’s, the North Point Lighthouse at Lake Park, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Charles Allis Art Museum. All five are located within a mile of each other – and they’re calling themselves the “Milwaukee Museum Mile.” By working together, they hope to attract more people than they could by working alone. Next Sunday, the group will kick off their promotion with free admission to all five museums. Eventually, spokesman John Sterr says they hope to put up banners to identify their area.
If you’re on Wisconsin’s do-not-call list, you won’t have to do anything to stop most unwanted text messages from getting to your cell phone. State lawmakers and Governor Scott Walker recently agreed to add text messages to the requirements of the no-call list. And state consumer officials announced the details this morning. The same requirements for phone messages apply to text messages. Even if you’re on the no-call list, you’ll sit get texts from charitable groups, political candidates, marketing research firms, and companies you’ve done business with. Consumer protection administrator Sandy Chalmers says the new law will be especially welcomed by those awakened by text messages during the night – and those who pay for incoming texts. And the rules have not changed for signing up for the no-call list. You have to renew your registration at least every two days. But you can do it anytime by going to NoCall-Dot-Wisconsin-Dot-Gov or calling the following toll-free phone number – 1-866-966-2255.
Green Bay Packers’ star Donald Driver took third place in last night’s judging on “Dancing With the Stars.” It was Classical Week. And Driver and Peta Murgatroyd scored all “nines” from the judges with a Viennese waltz while Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo sang live. Driver and Murgatroyd also added 26 points to their score in a dance with the teams of William Levy and Melissa Gilbert. Maria Menounos had the season’s first perfect 30 from the judges in the classical round, and she led after the night with 57. Katherine Jenkins was second with 54, followed by Driver. Six of the show’s original 12 couples will be left after one is voted off tonight on A-B-C. Two will be voted off next week.