Monday, July 04, 2016

Reasonable Doubt

"I don't know!" A Fond du Lac County jury must have heard that uttered by Dennis Brantner dozens and dozens of times during his murder trial.

Brantner recently stood trial for the murder of 18-year-old Berit Beck in the summer of 1990 in Fond du Lac. After 2 1/2 weeks the jury couldn't decide if he was guilty or innocent.

Some jurors had tears in their eyes as they were dismissed. They clearly took their duty as jurors to heart. But fingerprint evidence, testimony from witnesses Brantner worked with and for establishing his knowledge of the area where Beck's body was dumped was not enough.

In an audio interview taped in Brantner's kitchen in Kenosha and a video interview later that same day in March of 2014 at the Kenosha Police Department, police and Fond du Lac County Sheriff's detectives pressed him about Beck's murder.  Did you kill her? "I don't know." How did your fingerprints end up in her van? "I don't know." You must have been in her van. "I don't know." He repeatedly used the phrase, "I don't know" to answer their questions.

The jury heard the audio three or four times and watched the video at least as many times. "I don't know," became a mantra. I'm not sure if that influenced the jury, but they had their doubts about his guilt or innocence. They weren't the only ones.

After the jury was dismissed the press waited in the jury assembly room for a press conference with District Attorney Eric Toney and Dan Miller a pastor at the church the Beck family attends. While we were waiting there was a lively discussion about whether Brantner was guilty or innocent of Bert Beck's nmurder. Even the professional skeptics couldn't agree and we can sometimes be the most unreasonable of doubters. Should there be another trial. "I don't know."

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Opportunity Knocks

Opportunities are important during your career, but don't sneer at those fresh to your field when they are presented with what may seems to be an overwhelming opportunity. 
Recently I had a chance to do a one-on-one interview with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He was in Fond du Lac and had a couple interviews lined up with local media, five minutes each. While waiting I saw someone who had worked for one of our stations as an intern. He is now working for another station.
He was filling in for someone who was on vacation and was nervous. He commented that this was probably old hat for me. In fact I've interviewed at least five or six governors in my time and Governor Walker on multiple occasions. But I offered what words of encouragement I could. 
A day or so later I told a few people about seeing our former intern. A couple of them said what does he know about talking to the governor. I didn't say anything in his defense, but it reminded me of something that happened to me soon after I started at KFIZ. 
I was invited to moderate a candidates forum for the Dodge County Sheriff's race. It got back to me that some people at my previous station had laughed when they heard about it and said what does he know about moderating a debate. In fact nothing, but for more than eight years I covered the Sheriff's Department for that station and knew most of the seven candidates. I was told I did a good job moderating the debate.
Getting back to our former intern. I wish I had stuck up for him, I guess I am here. The important thing is he got a chance to do a one-on-one interview with the governor. Maybe that's not something you list on your resume, but it's experience and it counts.