As an organization that believes everybody has a right to their day in court, One Wisconsin Now is keenly aware that Wisconsin conservatives have championed the smearing of defense attorneys and the erosion of the rights of the accused.
Ask former Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, the subject of millions of dollars worth of attacks on his work as a public defender. All operating cylinders of the right-wing machine – from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, to talk radio, to conservative bloggers – pounded Butler, calling him unfit because of his criminal defense work.
So, one might think this same right-wing smear machine would be apoplectic over Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick’s 14 years of work as a public defender, representing everyone from child abusers to cop killer Ted Oswald.
Guess again. The Butler bashers are silent about Koschnick.
James Wigderson’s recent column in The Freeman is a perfect example of the right’s sudden sheepishness when it comes to Koschnick’s work on behalf of criminals like cop killer Ted Oswald.
Instead of the usual “soft on crime” bombast, conservatives like Wigderson want to instruct us on the nuance and legal subtleties of jurisprudence. This from (a recent) column:
“The concern should be less about Koschnick’s defense of a criminal as a defense attorney than whether Koschnick would be a liberal jurist who would invent law as (Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley) Abrahamson did in the Knapp case.”
That’s a decidedly different tune from what Wigderson had to say back in March 2008, on his blog, about Butler’s work, which includes advice to then-Burnett County Judge Mike Gableman:
“I even think it’s fair to run an ad that reminds the voters what kind of people the public defender defended as part of his career path. Heck, if I were Darrin Schmitz (Gableman’s campaign manager), I’d pull out the whole portfolio and ask at what point did Butler no longer want to be a public defender. After this murderer? After this rapist? If you don’t like it, don’t choose becoming a public defender as a career path.”
There you have it.
Save for conservative radio talker Mark Belling, the rabid right has completely hemmed and hawed about Koschnick’s work as a 14-year public defender and work for the cop killer, Oswald.
Even Koschnick refuses to defend his past work as a criminal defense lawyer without making a litany of qualifying statements. He has gone so far as to try and minimize his role to help Oswald’s defense. This attempt at rewriting history, though, cannot hide the obvious hypocrisy between how the right treats Koschnick and how they criticized Butler.
This selective memory extends to conservatives’ recall of the “bloody shirt” ruling in the Matthew Knapp case, cited by Koschnick and Wigderson as evidence of Abrahamson’s “liberal” bent. They thunder about Koschnick’s efforts as a judge to keep a bloody shirt in evidence, but ignore that on a technicality Koschnick tried to throw out of evidence two pairs of Knapp’s shoes on which was found his victim’s blood.
As a newspaper reported after Koschnick’s contradictory rulings on the shoes and shirt: “While that evidence is admissible, Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick ruled that two pairs of Knapp’s shoes could not be considered evidence because they were taken in an illegal search of an apartment where Knapp was staying with his brother. The shoes contained blood closely matching (the victim)’s according to DNA tests, said Jefferson County’s Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kennebeck.”
Wondering if the prosecuting district attorney thought the bloody shoes were important?
Upon Knapp’s conviction, the prosecutor told reporters the jury convicted Knapp because, “The scientists showed the dead woman’s blood was on his shoes.”
According to the right then, ruling a bloody shirt is inadmissible as evidence is indication of an activist liberal judiciary gone amok. But in the exact same case Koschnick’s attempt to exclude bloody shoes is principled justice?
Unfortunately, Koschnick has also chosen this selective storytelling, which raises serious questions about his judicial ethics. Speaking of his work to keep the shirt into evidence, he told a newspaper, “That puts the contrast into clear view.”
Koschnick failed to mention the bloody shoes.
So far, so has the right-wing noise machine.
(This column originally appeared in the Waukesha Freeman)