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Van Hollen Praises WI Supreme Court Decision Involving "Reverse Waiver" of Criminal Jurisdiction Over Juveniles Accused of First-Degree Homicide

 

DECISION RETURNS COREY KLESER
 TO MILWAUKEE COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT
TO STAND TRIAL AS ADULT IN 2006 MURDER

"Wisconsin law gives state prosecutors the authority to hold the most violent and dangerous juvenile offenders accountable in criminal court.  Today's decision better guarantees the safety of Wisconsin's citizens, while protecting the procedural rights of juveniles charged as adults."  -  Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen

 

MADISON - In Wisconsin, courts of criminal jurisdiction have exclusive original jurisdiction over juveniles alleged to have committed first-degree intentional homicide on or after the juvenile's tenth birthday.  Those juveniles have a statutory right to a "reverse waiver" hearing after a criminal court finds probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the homicide.  At that hearing, the juvenile bears the burden of proving that his case should be transferred to the juvenile justice system.  Wisconsin Stat. 970.032 describes the process and sets the standards for transfer of jurisdiction. 

 

Originally charged in criminal court with first-degree intentional homicide and other felonies, Corey Kleser persuaded a Milwaukee County circuit judge to transfer his case to juvenile court for trial and disposition.  This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the circuit judge erred in ordering that transfer.  The state's highest court remanded the case to Milwaukee County adult criminal court for trial.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, praised the decision.  "Wisconsin law gives state prosecutors the authority to hold the most violent and dangerous juvenile offenders accountable in criminal court," said Van Hollen.  "Today's decision better guarantees the safety of Wisconsin's citizens, while protecting the procedural rights of juveniles charged as adults."

 

The State originally alleged that Kleser intentionally killed a Milwaukee man in 2006.  Charged as an adult, Kleser argued at the reverse waiver hearing that, notwithstanding the criminal court's finding of probable cause, his case should be transferred to juvenile court.  The circuit judge agreed, relying in part on hearsay evidence presented by Kleser regarding the facts of the offense and opinion evidence regarding Kleser's truthfulness. 

 

In its decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court traced the evolution and operation of the statutes governing "reverse waiver," and concluded that the circuit court erred in transferring Kleser's case to juvenile court.  From the decision:

We conclude, first, that a juvenile has a right to a reverse waiver hearing after the criminal court finds probable cause to believe that the juvenile has committed the exclusive original jurisdiction violation or violations of which he is accused. In a reverse waiver hearing, the juvenile must prove all elements set out in 970.032(2)(a), (b), and (c) by a preponderance of the evidence. If the juvenile fails to meet his burden of proof, he shall be retained for prosecution in the criminal court. Thus, the juvenile must be given reasonable latitude to offer admissible evidence to satisfy his burden on the three elements. This includes evidence about the offense, supplementing the facts used to establish probable cause, to put the offense in context. The juvenile may not offer evidence in the reverse waiver hearing for the purpose of contradicting the offense charged. The place to offer evidence for the purpose of contradicting the offense charged is the preliminary examination.

 

Second, we conclude that the circuit court erred in granting reverse waiver here, for three reasons. (1) The court substantively relied on inadmissible hearsay testimony from Dr. Beyer describing the events of the offense; (2) the court allowed Dr. Beyer to offer inadmissible opinion testimony regarding Kleser's truthfulness; and (3) the court erroneously prohibited the State's psychologist from interviewing Kleser regarding the facts of the offense while permitting Dr. Beyer to testify as a conduit for Kleser's account of the facts of the offense.

 

Finally, we conclude that remand for a new reverse waiver hearing would not be appropriate under these facts.

As noted, the Wisconsin Supreme Court remanded Kleser's case to Milwaukee County adult criminal court for trial on the charges.  Kleser enjoys a presumption of innocence, and the State will be required to prove the allegations against him beyond a reasonable doubt at any resulting trial.

 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in State of Wisconsin v. Corey Kleser, No. 2007AP2827-CRAC, appears on the court's website:

http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=52287

 

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office will represent the State of Wisconsin in forthcoming circuit court proceedings involving Kleser.  Assistant Attorney General Sally Wellman represented the State in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.