Agencies join push for early access
Teacher's defense wants to see police reports immediately
By DAVID DOEGE
Posted: Dec. 1, 2006
"The more we know about wrongful convictions, the less it makes sense to deprive a defendant of access to relevant evidence at the earliest possible opportunity," the agencies' filing says.
Schaefer, 45, of Skokie, Ill., was charged in May with two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child after a now 30-year-old woman contacted Brookfield police and claimed she had a romantic relationship with Schaefer that included sex when he taught and coached at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, N87-W16171 Kenwood Blvd., Menomonee Falls.
The woman told police that while she was in the seventh grade, Schaefer was her basketball coach at the school, and he "started paying more attention to her and complimented her on her basketball skills," according to the complaint.
When she advanced to the eighth grade, Schaefer also became one of her teachers and as time passed, he left her notes and poems, according to the complaint.
During a visit to Schaefer's parents' home in Brookfield in 1990, the two went swimming together, then had sex, the complaint says. During that same period, they had sex while she was baby-sitting his two children, the complaint alleges.
Arrested at Chicago school
On the day Schaefer was charged, he was arrested at Luther North High School in Chicago, where he coaches the girls varsity basketball team in addition to acting as director of admissions and teaching theology courses.
Kathleen Stilling, one of Schaefer's attorneys, subpoenaed the reports from the Brookfield Police Department a few days before he was scheduled to have his preliminary hearing on the charges, contending that Schaefer was at a particular disadvantage because the criminal complaint provided just five paragraphs about allegations concerning events 16 years ago.
"He cannot be expected to independently remember important details which may call into question the plausibility of the allegation," Stilling wrote at one point in a filing with the appellate court.
Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Debra Blasius, who issued the charges, and state Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Rapp St. John have contended that defendants do not have a right to investigative reports until after a preliminary hearing, when evidence sharing rules require prosecutors to supply reports to defendants.
If he is ordered to stand trial after the hearing, "the prosecution will have constitutional, statutory and ethical duties" to provide the reports, Rapp St. John said in her filing with the appellate court.
The filing by the Innocence Project and the public defender's office contends, among other things, that earlier access to police reports would deter "tunnel vision" that police investigators can develop as a result of an eagerness to build a case against a known suspect while "ignoring or suppressing evidence that points away from guilt."
"The preliminary hearing serves an important function in protecting the innocent from embarrassment, expense and trauma of standing trial for a crime he or she did not commit," the filing says.
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