On 12 September, 2007, Sheboygan County Judge Timothy Van Akkeren reversed the jury felony conviction of Mitchell Pask. The case was questionable despite the confidence of the jurors.
The case was definitely overcharged. Pask was charged with child enticement, but Pask was alleged to have stated “salty sexy little girls” and offered candy to a nine‑year‑old girl to go to an open pavilion.
Van Akkeren overturned the jury based on the fact that state law requires enticement to be to a secluded place, and the open pavilion alleged by the prosecution did not even come close to secluded. The sides were open, and it was in plain view of people walking through the park.
There were other problems with the conduct of this case. There were several young girls who were with the alleged victim but, they were not involved in the identification and testimony.
A larger problem was that the identification procedure used by Sheboygan police is flawed. They sandwiched the accused between two officers and asked for an eyewitness identification. There is nothing like a big neon sign to say “pick this one.”
But, the issue for Judge Akkeren was the fact that the charge did not meet the level required by statute. And, that is a very legitimate concern.
On 11 January, 2008, the judge reversed himself. This was not based on any reasoning. Rather, the learned judge felt that the Appeals Court would take a broader view and overturn. This is a new way to practice law. Try to guess what the next level in the court system will do.
The Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court have engaged in questionable reasoning and chop logic, but if the issue was the a statutory one, then let the Court of Appeals make up their own reasons for ignoring the law. Judge Van Akkeren put himself in the position of being the trial judge and appeals judge simultaneously.
I wonder if Van Akkeren succumbed to pressure in his reversal. He still maintains that the case was overcharged.
There are people who are dangerous individuals and those people need to be removed from the public. But, that does not mean that mere allegation is enough to make a case. There are a substantial number of innocent people who have been convicted of sex crimes. The way the legal system works that could easily include any of us.
Here, the identification procedure is guaranteed to produce false identifications. The failure of the prosecution to included identifications from the other girl’s present is troubling.
But, most troubling is the behavior of Judge Van Akkeren.by Brian McCorkle
in category Rants