By Gretchen Schuldt
Waupaca County District Attorney Veronica Isherwood, in an extraordinary letter to defense lawyers, said Waupaca County Sheriff Tim Wilz acknowledged that his department regularly alters reports to remove information that could help defendants establish their innocence.
"Additionally we have received information that reports to my office of these irregularities are discouraged," she wrote.
Wilz admitted the practice of altering reports in testimony, Isherwood said, but she did not give specifics.
"It was also disclosed that evidence of any changes were not preserved," she said in a letter addressed to county defense attorneys and dated Friday. "We have no idea if the reports in the case you are defending were changed or altered in any way."
The state, Isherwood said, has evidence that in one case, "Waupaca County Sheriff Captain Julie Thobaben altered a report authored by a deputy which resulted in the removal of exculpatory information. Captain Thobaben testified to her actions this week."
That is the only instance "where we are certain a report was changed, but the sworn testimony that this happens regularly is very concerning," Isherwood said.
Under the legal doctrine called the "Brady rule," prosecutors must disclose evidence that is exculpatory or helpful to the defense.
"Under normal circumstances you would receive notification of a Brady violation, only when an affected officer was subpoenaed to testify," Isherwood said. "The attorneys at the Waupaca County District Attorney('s) office believe under this circumstance, the spirit of Brady/Giglio makes it incumbent upon us to notify you of this irregularity."
"We pride ourselves on upholding an extremely high ethical standard in our charging decisions and prosecution of criminal cases," Isherwood said. "The loss of someone’s liberty is a tremendous responsibility that we do not take lightly. The Courts have been notified of this information," she said.
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