Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long Days in Lancaster

A while back we discussed a pretty heinous case from the small Mississippi River town of Cassville, WI. During a long, long night in Cassville three men, twin brothers Alex and Nick Grunke and their buddy Dustin Radke dug up the corpse of the recently deceased Laura Tennessen, who had died at the age of 20 in a motorcycle accident. That in itself is obviously illegal, but when you ad in the fact that they are accused of doing this in order to have sexual intercourse the case just gets strange and perverted.
Anyway, after a lot of time and energy in the courts trying to determine if having sex with a corpse is a crime, and determining that it is (that all happened during Alex's trial earlier this year) Nick finally went on trial in the county seat of Lancaster a couple of days ago, and what a trial this is going to turn out to be. I mean, real A&E made for TV movie kind of stuff. Like stuff you'd see on some sort of Justice Files type show and be grossed out by it and wonder how exactly the people who had to deal with this dealt with it. So you can imagine that this case, aspects of which have already spent lots of time and money floating all the way up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, is going to cause quite a stir is this small, rural county. And that it is going to make for some long days in Lancaster.
First of all, let's just say this: I am astonished that none of the defense lawyers have asked for this case to me moved out of the county. I can't imagine exactly how these boys are going to get a fair shake anywhere down in that corner of the state. The media coverage has been intense. The Dubuque Telegraph Herald and the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison-area television media have covered this case extensively since it began in 2006. If you search for it you will find a lot of articles and updates about what went on. So I am surprised that it was never asked for the trial to be moved, although I suppose the news has spread far and wide. I mean, I live over 300 miles away and I know all about it, and you live God knows how far and you are reading about it right now, so I would guess that they figured it was a moot point. Anyway, jury selection took just about an hour to whittle the pool down from the 66 people who showed up to however many sit on a jury. The Telegraph Herald reported that "When Judge George Curry asked if any member of the jury panel had heard anything about the case, nearly every hand had flew [sic] into the air." Yikes, tough room.
As would be expected, one of the the Three Musketeers cracked and reached a plea deal. IN this particular case it was Radke, who sang like Mariah Carey in order to save his own behind. In exchange for his testimony two of the three counts (which, by the way were attempted criminal damage to a cemetery, attempted misdemeanor theft, and third-degree sexual assault) were dropped, but everyone would get to hear in the public record about how messed up Radke is in the head. Anyway, he testified, much like he did at Alex's trial, that Nick Grunke was basically the ringleader of this very, very misguided gang of retarded sexual deviants, and that they were digging up the corpse because Nick wanted to have sex with the woman, or at least with her remains, when there were caught in the act on September 2, 2006. Seems pretty cut and dry, doesn't it? Well, let's take a look at how Nick's attorney spun this one, shall we?
In a very sitcom-ish sort of strategy, defense attorney Suzanne Edwards decided to start her defense of her client by basically tearing him to shreds. She portrayed him as a shy, naïve, virgin who just sort of longed for some sort of female companionship. Well maybe he should have gotten a dog then. This guy is not shy, a shy person would worry too much about getting caught robbing a grave. He is not naïve because if you don't understand that digging up a corpse and having sex with it is very, very wrong in a very, very socially unacceptable way then there is something so much bigger wrong with you it's not even funny. I sort of think this guy knew exactly what he was doing and was just a creepy creeper. Edwards claimed that Grunke longed to have a girlfriend to hold and spend time with, and that he just wanted to "set up a little fairy-tale scenario." Yeah, I am going to have to call shenanigans on this one. We all feel that way all the time. And last I checked, ninety-nine point nine repeating percent of people aren't digging up the corpses of local women in order to satisfy those longings. Do you know why? It is sick and wrong to do that, that's why.
So anyway, as Edwards tried to convince the court and the jury and God and fate that Nick Grunke only wanted to pose the poor deceased woman's body in a "non-sexual way" prosecutor Tony Pozorski was attempting to cut as many holes in that theory as he could. As the main issue of contention was whether or not Nick actually intended to have sex with the corpse or not when he started digging on that fateful September night, one could imagine just how heavily Pozorski is leaning on the testimony of the songbird Radke, who went so far as to state that Grunke has talked about necrophilia many times in the past and that the body they were digging was not a specific target. His credibility, however, took a bit of a hit when he admitted to lying to police in the past in order to get out of trouble. I've gotta say I am not surprised.
So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us waiting to see how this brother fares in court. Alex, at his trial, was found guilty of two of the three counts while the jury deadlocked on the third and is awaiting a new trial. His trial caused the state legislature to pass a law declaring necrophilia illegal. Great. I can only begin to imagine what this trial will bring. Long nights in Cassville certainly do lead to long days in Lancaster, now don't they?

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