Friday, June 18, 2010

Vollbrecht awaits word on appeal - BARABOO NEWS REPUBLIC

By Christie Taylor / News Republic

Defense lawyers and state prosecutors have completed hearings presenting more evidence this week in the case of Terry Vollbrecht, who was convicted of murdering 18-year-old Angela Hackl more than 20 years ago, and who is appealing with the argument that his conviction was purely circumstantial.

If Vollbrecht is to get a new trial it could be several months before that determination is made.

Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Stephen G. Bauer presided over the hearings this week and in February which will determine whether the decades-old case is brought to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Vollbrecht's team must convince the judge they have uncovered significant new evidence for a new trial, or that the prosecution withheld evidence from the defense during Vollbrecht's first trial in 1989.

Hackl disappeared in June of 1987, after spending an evening drinking with friends in Sauk City, and was found several days later hanging from a tree in a lover's lane west of the village. Court records state she had been shot several times in the back.

Before Hackl's body was found, Vollbrecht had freely admitted leaving the bar with Hackl and having consensual sex with her. Law officers focused on him in the months of investigation which followed, and he was charged in October of 1989.

Innocence Project attorneys and law students spent most of this week and a week in February presenting evidence they say casts suspicion on others, including Kim Brown, who was convicted of a similar murder in Adams County the same summer. They also point to former Sauk Prairie Patrol Officer Tom Perschy, who allegedly had a history of sexually harassing women, as a potential suspect in the Hackl case,

On Tuesday, Innocence Project attorney Ion Meyn testified a variety of potentially-important reports from the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation had not been provided to Vollbrecht's attorneys until April of this year, including an account from Portage resident David Kenevan.

Kenevan, a co-worker of Kim Brown, had said he heard second-hand that Brown had mentioned tying up and sexually abusing women.

Ultimately, Bauer said, the defense would have to prove the evidence had not been available at the time of the original trial.

Also this week, state prosecutors brought forth witnesses whose testimonies, they said, countered these contentions, including veteran Sauk Prairie Patrol Officer William Richards. Richards testified that Perschy's activities on the night of the murder did not match the account of a defense witness, who reported seeing Perschy at a Sauk City gas station with a blonde woman in his car.

The hearings completed with brief presentations of evidence Friday morning. The teams will now put together briefs of their arguments for and against a new trial using the evidence presented this week and in February. That process could take more than three months, after which it will be up to Bauer to sort through the briefs, evidence, and hearing transcripts to determine whether Vollbrecht will be allowed to appeal.

All told, the lawyers presented more than 100 exhibits for consideration, including documents and physical evidence.

"The UW innocence Project and Mr. Hurley and I have been working very hard in the hopes that Terry will have an opportunity for a new trial," defense attorney Erik Guenther said. "And we think he deserves it."

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