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Across the Region: Judge names special prosecutor in ‘Making a Murderer’ appeal


Judge names special prosecutor in ‘Making a Murderer’ appeal

A judge has appointed a special prosecutor to represent the state of Wisconsin in a request for extensive testing in the case of a man featured in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer.”

Court documents show a judge appointed former Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Norman Gahn to replace Manitowoc County District Attorney Jaclyn LaBre in Steven Avery’s homicide case on Sept. 1 after LaBre cited a conflict of interest.

Avery contends Manitowoc County officials framed him for Teresa Halbach’s 2005 death.

His attorney filed a motion in August requesting extensive forensic testing on evidence.

Gahn pioneered DNA use in criminal cases in the 1980s. He garnered attention in the ’90s when he filed charges against DNA profiles. He helped prosecute Avery in Halbach’s death.


Second girl in Slender Man stabbing enters insanity plea

The second of two young Wisconsin girls accused of trying to kill a classmate to please horror character Slender Man entered Friday a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to an attempted homicide charge.

The 14-year-old girl changed her previous not-guilty plea during a 15-minute proceeding in Waukesha County Circuit Court. Judge Michael Bohren appointed two doctors to examine the girl, who sat silently during the proceedings. The judge ordered the doctors to turn in a report on her mental status by Oct. 6.

Both the girl and 14-year-old Morgan Geyser face one count of first-degree attempted intentional homicide in connection with the May 2014 attack on classmate Payton Leutner. Geyser pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect last month.

Juvenile proceedings are secret. The Associated Press isn’t naming the second girl in case her attorneys pursue an appeal with the high court, but has named Geyser because her attorneys have said they’ve given up on juvenile court.

If defense attorneys and prosecutors agree the girls suffer from a mental disease, they would be committed to a mental hospital indefinitely, according to the second girl’s attorney, Maura McMahon. If a dispute arises over their mental states, a hearing would ensue and a jury would ultimately make the decision.

Prosecutors say the girls planned for months to kill Leutner, either to gain favor with Slender Man and earn positions as his servants or to avoid his wrath. The girls lured Leutner to a wooded Waukesha park following a sleepover and stabbed her repeatedly before fleeing, according to investigators. Leutner crawled to a road where a bicyclist found her.

The 14-year-old girl and Geyser were captured on the outskirts of Waukesha. They said they were walking to a national forest in northern Wisconsin where they planned to join Slender Man at his mansion.

All three girls were 12 years old at the time. Anyone 10 or older charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide is automatically considered an adult under state law.

Lawyers for both girls, who face 40 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision if convicted, have tried unsuccessfully to move their cases into juvenile court, where they could be incarcerated for three years and then supervised until they turn 18. They’ve exhausted every avenue of appeal except for the state Supreme Court.



Ex-prosecutor pleads guilty in underwear theft case

A former Marshalltown prosecutor has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and trespassing charges following his arrest in late August for stealing underwear from a co-worker.

Ben Stansberry entered the pleas Friday and will pay more than $200 in fines and court costs.

Stansberry resigned from his job in the Marshall County Attorney’s Office on Aug. 26, days after a co-worker reported finding a pair of her underwear in her driveway. Investigators tell The Des Moines Register that Stansberry was alone in the woman’s house shortly before she found the underwear.

Authorities determined he entered her bedroom without permission to take them, the Marshalltown Times-Republic reported.

Stansberry also submitted a letter of resignation Friday from his position as a member of the Marshalltown Community School District board. The school board is set to act on that request Monday, Superintendent Theron Schutte said.

Online records show Stansberry’s law license remains in good standing, but his license could be suspended or revoked by the Iowa Supreme Court following a confidential complaint and investigation process handled by a state attorney disciplinary board.



About 60% of applicants passed bar exam

The North Dakota Supreme Court says 63 percent of applicants passed the bar exam this year, that’s a lower rate compared to the 69 percent pass rate of 2015.

A total of 71 applicants sat for the two-day North Dakota exam in July and 45 of them passed.

Seventy-three percent of those taking the state’s exam for the first time passed, compared to 79 percent a year ago.

The court says 73 percent of first-time applicants who graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law passed the exam. That rate was 76 percent in 2015.

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