Photos By claims board wi logo courtesy claimsboard.wi.gov
MADISON - The Wisconsin Claims Board on Friday awarded $25,000 to a U.S. Navy veteran who spent 26 years behind bars for a homicide he didn't commit.
Derrick Sanders, now 48, argued he was wrongfully convicted in the fatal shooting of Jason Bowie in Milwaukee in 1992. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him in 2018 after a circuit judge threw out his conviction.
"The Board concludes and finds that the evidence is clear and convincing that Sanders was innocent of the charge discussed herein," the decision said.
Sanders had asked the board for $5.7 million but state law limits compensation for wrongful convictions to $25,000. Sanders' current attorney, Rex Anderegg, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
According to board documents, Sanders, Anthony Boddie and John Peavy attacked Bowie in November 1992, beating him at two different houses. Boddie and Peavy later took Bowie to an abandoned house where Boddie shot him in the head. Anderegg said Boddie was angry because Bowie had burglarized his girlfriend's house.
Boddie pleaded guilty to first-degree intentional homicide, Peavy pleaded guilty to being a party to the homicide, and Sanders pleaded no contest to the same charge. He was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to life in prison.
Sanders insisted he wasn't involved in the shooting or even knew it had happened. He maintained his attorney was ineffective because he didn't explain the meaning of being a party to a crime and his no-contest plea wasn't intelligently entered because he didn't understand the punishment he would face.
A state appeals court in 1995 tossed out his plea and kicked his case back to circuit court. The following year, he re-entered his no-contest plea on the advice of his new attorney, even though Sanders told him that after he didn't even witness the shooting. Sanders said he believed that his participation in the beating left him strictly liable for the homicide.
Sanders continued to pursue an appeal from prison, arguing that his new attorney never explained to him how his behavior would establish he was guilty of being a party to the homicide. He testified that if he had understood the concept he wouldn't have pleaded no contest.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner tossed the plea in August 2018, ruling that prosecutors hadn't demonstrated Sanders understood the ramifications of his plea. Prosecutors dropped the charges a month later, saying they had asked police to re-interview Boddie who told them he alone shot Bowie in the basement of the abandoned house.
MADISON (AP) - Wisconsin's attempt to conduct an election in the midst of a coronavirus crisis lurched forward Friday, with a Democratic governor pushing for an all-mail election to replace in-person voting and Republican leaders refusing to budge.
Just three days before Tuesday's spring primary, which features the Democratic presidential contest plus a high-stakes state Supreme Court race, a federal judge had extended absentee voting through April 13 but refused requests to postpone the election.
With thousands of poll workers quitting, Gov. Tony Evers for the first time Friday called for an all-mail election, ordering a special session Saturday and asking the Republican-dominated Legislature to agree.
"I sit here telling you the time is now for leadership and all the people that are part of the Senate and Assembly to step to the plate and do what's necessary to ensure we have safety in the state and we have an election we'll be using mail ballots for," Evers said, expressing confidence that the state would "get there" on shifting the election.
Republicans swiftly made clear their feeling that the election should continue as planned, and accused Evers of waffling under pressure from liberal groups.
"It's so disappointing that Governor Evers has flip-flopped on the very question that we have been discussing over the last month," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement. "The only bipartisan discussion we've had was to ensure the election would continue safely and to maximize the opportunity to vote absentee."
Evers wanted the session to begin Saturday afternoon and for lawmakers to take up bills that would allow clerks to mail absentee ballots to voters who haven't requested one by May 19 and give voters until May 26 to return them.
U.S. District Judge William Conley on Thursday ordered absentee voting deadlines extended from Election Day on Tuesday to April 13, in effect extending the election by six days. Republicans appealed, but the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined late Friday to stay Conley's order. The court didn't explain its decision.
Other states have delayed their primaries to protect voters and poll workers from the virus. Alaska, Wyoming, Hawaii and Louisiana were set to hold elections Saturday, but they've pushed those contests back. Louisiana's presidential primary is now set for June 20. Democrats in Alaska and Wyoming have decided to hold their party-run contests by mail only and have pushed back the deadline for turning in ballots.
In Wisconsin, the troubled election is playing out in a state certain to be one of the key battlegrounds in the fall presidential race.
Evers said at the beginning of the outbreak that the election should go on as scheduled even amid a stay-at-home order and Republican legislators agreed. But criticism mounted as more and more poll workers walked off the job; more than 100 municipalities have reported they lack enough staff to run even one polling place.
Democrats and liberal groups filed three federal lawsuits demanding Conley postpone in-person voting. The judge declined to delay the election in his Thursday order but extended the absentee voting deadline and lifted a witness requirement.
Attorneys for the Republican National Committee, state Republican Party and Republican legislators turned immediately to the 7th Circuit, arguing that Conley's decision violates core principles that judges shouldn't change the rules in ongoing elections, allows people to vote after Election Day and renders the witness requirement meaningless, opening the door to voter fraud.
The 7th Circuit did stay Conley's decision to exempt absentee voters from the witness signature requirement, saying the judge didn't consider that lifting the mandate might open the door to fraud.
The Republicans' attorneys didn't immediately respond to email messages Friday evening seeking comment on the appellate court's decision.
The governor has said he lacks the power to change election law unilaterally. Calling a special session was Evers' last option to try and force legislative action.
The governor said during a conference call with reporters that holding the election as planned on Tuesday "is a significant concern and a very unnecessary health risk. I can't move this election on my own. My hands are tied."
The primary comes as Joe Biden holds a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders but hasn't formally clinched the Democratic nomination. Tuesday's election also features hundreds of races for local office as well as a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat.
It also comes as Wisconsin's chief medical officer says the state is "flattening the curve" on new COVID-19 infections. Dr. Ryan Westergaard said this week Evers' stay-at-home order "is making a big difference."
President Donald Trump took time out from Friday's briefing on the coronavirus to claim without evidence that the push to delay the election was to hurt a conservative he endorsed, state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, and not because of the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly faces liberal-backed Jill Karofsky for a 10-year term.
"I hear what happened is his poll numbers went through the roof. And because of that, I think they delayed the election," Trump said.
Trump also said he opposes mail-in voting because of fraud concerns: "It shouldn't be mailed in. You should vote at the booth and you should have voter ID."
Wisconsin requires voters to provide voter ID even when voting absentee.
RHINELANDER - Three people have tested positive for coronavirus in Oneida County. One of those people, an elderly man, was a resident at Rennes Assisted Living Center in Rhinelander. That patient is currently in isolation at another health care facility.
Meanwhile, the staff at Rennes are doing everything they can to keep their residents safe. Public information officer Vikki Baumler said workers have stepped up in a big way the last few weeks.
"It's a fearful time for everyone. We'd be remised to say no one's afraid at all," said Baumler. "We've been really impressed how everyone is coming together, focusing on residents and jumping in to do whatever they can."
THREE LAKES - Healthcare workers are at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and right now more of them are beginning to stay away from their own families to keep them safe.
In Three Lakes, Peyer's Paradise Resort wants to help them do that.
Things are quiet for now here at some of the cabins, but things are expected to pick up as the coronavirus spreads.
"We've got cabins," said Peyer's Paradise Resort Owners Jodi and Randy Peyer. "We've got 6 cabins and then a 4-bedroom house that are pretty much empty this time of the year. So we thought, why not? We saw on the news that people in other communities are helping out."
WISCONSIN - Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a Presidential Primary election this coming Tuesday.
Friday, after weeks of staying the course, Governor Tony Evers called for lawmakers help him switch it, to prevent in-person voting. Instead, he's calling for every registered voter in Wisconsin to get an absentee ballot in the mail. He also wants to move the deadline to return those ballots to late May.
RHINELANDER - As the 2020 Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week approaches, the Wisconsin's statewide tornado drill is expected to continue as planned even with the COVID-19 Pandemic, but with a few changes.
"Essentially do a virtual tornado drill on social media," said Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Joe Moore
This move comes after it was deemed longer possible to do a live code test on television, radios, and cell phones for a variety of reasons.
Moore said one of the reasons involves the Safe at Home Orders that are currently enacted.
"In observing the safer at home orders in Minnesota in Wisconsin, Weather services offices are currently staffed at a minimal level and sending out this test requires a little extra attention," said Moore.
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