Readers will recall a story from 2009 about Walworth County’s lawsuit against a crime victim to collect part of the cost of an expert the county hired to aid in the prosecution of those who victimized her. I wrote at the time that the county’s lawsuit was “an astonishing and disgraceful departure from legal custom in Wisconsin.” Fox 6 Milwaukee covered the story.
(For my earlier post, see Walworth County’s Justice Can’t Be Blind – She’s Looking for a Victim’s Wallet. )
When Walworth County resident Linda Goes, and other families, went to Walworth County D.A. Koss about the theft they suffered from a contractor, he agreed to prosecute the contractor and his wife. Later, when the case drew closer to trial, Koss went to the crime victims and asked them to pay for the prosecution’s expert witness (whose testimony concerned the alleged swindle against Goes and others.)
Goes rightly refused to pay for a prosecution witness, and so Walworth County sued her for thousands in fees.
The builder (Art Reeves) admitted guilt, but his wife and business partner (Beth Reeves) went to trial, and was convicted (several felony convictions).
Beth Reeves appealed her conviction, and predictably — as anyone of even average judgment would know — the demand of a crime victim’s payment for a prosecution witness has jeopardized the conviction.
The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office has now issued an eight-page memorandum to an appeals court in support of the position that Koss’s demand or payment of the expert’s fee was an error, and that the defendant’s conviction should therefore be overturned.
That’s the right result — no victim should have to pay for her own expert, and that payment taints the prosecution of the criminal defendant. It makes criminal justice a matter of wealth.
One should note that it was Koss who demanded this money; this idea began with his office, not the crime victims.
Koss and Assistant D.A. Steve Madsen may find themselves having lost a conviction, through a disgraceful demand.
Note, also, that in 2009, Koss contended that he had support from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office to ask crime victim Linda Goes for part of the expert’s fee, but he never produced any letter or other document showing that he had that office’s support.
Considering that the Attorney General’s office expressly repudiates Koss’s odd approach, one wonders if Koss could ever have produced anything regarding his unsubstantiated claim of support from Madison.
For more examples of the mistakes, errors, and questionable decisions of Koss’s office, consider —