Sunday State News Briefs: Ellis is asking state Supreme Court to overturn convictionWisconsin News
-- Convicted mass murderer Walter Ellis is arguing he only pleaded no contest to seven homicide charges because he faced what he calls unfair circumstances.
MADISON - Convicted mass murderer Walter Ellis is arguing he only pleaded no contest to seven homicide charges because he faced what he calls unfair circumstances.
Ellis is appealing his convictions on first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree murder charges in the deaths of seven women. Ellis had asked the court for a change of venue and he also wanted the cases to be tried separately. A court of appeals denied both of those arguments. The next step is the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether it will take the case.
A plan backed by Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen would mean police and prosecutors would collect about six times as many DNA samples as are collected now in Wisconsin. Walker and Van Hollen came out in support of collecting DNA samples from people accused of felonies last April, rather than just those convicted. Now, they are also supporting the idea of collecting DNA from those convicted of any misdemeanor, including minor ones like disorderly conduct and vagrancy. Walker is expected to include the change in the state spending plan he submits to the Legislature next year. Van Hollen wants to divert almost five million dollars a year in penalty surcharge money to pay for it. That is sure to set off a fight with Democrats.
A prisoner from Washington state has been returned to the Dane County Jail so he can face charges he tortured and killed his disabled half-brother. Jeffrey J. Vogelsberg was booked into the jail in Madison Friday night. He had been arrested in Pierce County, Washington, last month. He had tried to fight extradition to Wisconsin, but Washington’s governor interceded. Prosecutors say Vogelsberg repeatedly tortured 27 year old old Matthews Graville until the autistic man died last July. Vogelsberg has a court appearance scheduled for Wednesday.
Milwaukee County Zoo officials say a five year old orangutan died in his exhibit yesterday morning. They say Mahal had been showing signs of sickness since last week. Veterinarians at the zoo think the cause of death was pneumonia, but a necropsy will be done to make sure. Mahal was said to be especially popular with zoo visitors and the facility plans to set up a way for the public to commemorate him. The red-haired orangutan was born in Colorado, but was rejected by his mother. He was raised by a surrogate mother in Milwaukee.
A spokesperson for Triple-A Wisconsin says the price of gasoline could dip below three dollars a gallon next year. Nationwide prices have been dropping since the middle of September. As of last Friday, the average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline in Wisconsin was three dollars, 22 cents. Some retailers are already selling gas near three dollars in southeastern and western Wisconsin. The last time the average price of gas fell below three dollars in Wisconsin was just before Christmas two years ago.
Green Bay city officials are asking a judge to impose penalties of up to $500 dollars per day on the St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter downtown. The shelter at 411 St. John Street is run by the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. Its administrators have been ordered to make a court appearance January 18th to face charges the shelter has violated its city permit by housing more people than allowed. Mayor Jim Schmitt says the city has always supported homeless services and will continue to do so, but city leaders worry repeated violations of the occupancy limit at the shelter create safety problems and worry businesses and people living nearby.