The Milwaukee area has not been without its sensational criminal trials- some might say that we have had more than our fair-share of cases that have grabbed the national spotlight. We struggled with how to title this article. To call it the "Greatest Moments" seems callous since each of these incidents involved monumental human tragedy. "Most memorable" suffers from the same problem. However tragic each of these cases are, though, each is important to remember because they have had a profound impact on criminal justice in Milwaukee. Here are the top ten most notable moments in criminal law from the past thirty years. This, of course, is according to me. The criteria I used are as follows: (1) The incident had to take place in the greater Milwaukee area. Crimes committed by Milwaukeeans in some other place are not included (e.g. Arthur Bremer); (2) The incident had to have taken place within the past thirty years. 10. The Ernest Lacy Incident
On June 9, 1981 the Milwaukee Police were cruising the downtown Milwaukee area looking for a "rape suspect" when they came upon a troubled young man named Ernest Lacy. When the police tried to talk to Lacy he began to struggle with them. Lacy was eventually arrested and placed into the rear of a police van where he was later found dead. A Marquette University student, Mary Keane, saw the incident from across the street. She later testified that Lacy was already motionless while being pinned to the street by the officers. According to Keane, Lacy began to "spaz out" as the officers loaded him into the back of the police van.
Two years the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission found five police officers guilty of failing to render first aid to Lacy.
Although the Lacy case might seem to be a garden-variety matter of excessive use of force by police, the Lacy case is important because, at the time, it was a lightning-rod in the city for citizens- especially black citizens- who were fed-up with the brutal police tactics of the police chief at the time, Harold Brier. Nearly one thousand people showed up at a jury view of the scene in September, 1982. The crowd began chanting, "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now." This case was the beginning of the citizen revolt against police brutality that ended with the 2007 conviction in federal court of the police officers involved in the Frank Jude beating.
9. Laron Ball is Shot to Death During Escape Attempt in Court
Laron Ball was on trial for murder in May, 2002 before the Honorable Jacqueline Schellinger. Ball had threatened mayhem if he were convicted and, when the jury returned a guilty verdict, Ball (who was not restrained in any way) lept into the jury box and was apparently heading for the window of the courtroom on the third floor of the Milwaukee County Safety Building. In the process Ball disarmed Milwaukee County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Witkowski. Ball shot Witkowski in the leg but, after a brief struggle, Ball was shot and killed by a Milwaukee police detective.
The incident had far-ranging consequences. On a more practical level the Milwaukee felony courts instituted a policy that is still in effect today that requires in-custody defendants in felony cases to be chained to the floor during the reading of verdicts. On a human level, Judge Schellinger seemed to never recover from the trauma of the incident and she eventually resigned her position as a circuit court judge.
7. Mark Chmura Trial
Mark Chmura was an All-Pro tight end who played on the Green Bay Packers' 1996 Super Bowl Championship team. Chmura was accused of sexually assaulting a seventeen year-old on April 8, 2000 at a Waukesha Catholic Memorial prom party being hosted by Chmura's neighbor. The trial was a media circus that ended with a not guilty verdict. Many legal commentators questioned the motives of the Waukesha County District Attorney who filed the charges. Nonetheless, because of the details that were made public during the course of the trial public opinion of Chmura quickly hit rock-bottom and, a few months later, the Packers released Chmura from their roster.
6. Charlie Young, Jr. is Beaten to Death by a Gang of Teenagers
On September 29, 2002 a group of approximately fourteen teenagers hunted down and beat a Milwaukee man to death. The man, Charlie Young, Jr., had apparently knocked out the tooth of one of the teenagers earlier in the day. At one point Young had barricaded himself inside a home while the gang began tearing at the door and windows. The homeowner force Young out of the home and into the clutches of the gang.
The case was disturbing in that it clearly illustrated the vicious mentality of a new generation of street gangs. Most of the children involved in the beating came from dysfunctional homes. "Trash and shattered glass litter streets pocked with boarded-up houses," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote in an Oct. 2, 2002 article. "It is a battle zone where almost everyone you talk to needs more than one hand to count the murdered relatives and friends -- and blames police and society."
The incident was the first in a string of similar incidents. In one later incident a group of boys threw a man in from of a bus severely injuring him.
__________________________________ Schiro & Zarzynski Personal Injury Attorneys Milwaukee, WI 53203 414.224.0825
"The bully lawyer" _____________________________
Milwaukee criminal defense attorney Jeffrey W. Jensen, of the Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen, a Milwaukee law firm with offices located at 735 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Twelfth Floor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has represented persons throughout the State of Wisconsin. If you will face felony charges in either state court or in federal court you should call 414.224.9484. Attorney Jensen regularly appears in Milwaukee County (Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer), Waukesha County (Waukesha criminal defense lawyer, Brookfield criminal defense lawyer), Washington County (West Bend and Germantown criminal defense lawyer), Racine County (Racine criminal defense lawyer), Kenosha County (Kenosha criminal defense lawyer), Brown County (Green Bay criminal defense lawyer), Fond du Lac County (Fond du Lac criminal defense lawyer), and Winnebago County (Oshkosh criminal defense lawyer)
The material on this site is a product of the Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen. Unless otherwise noted it may be used for any legal purpose with attribution.