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."


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