Wis. attorney wants charge dropped in fatal crash
- Associated Press
- January 14, 2014 - 1:50 PM
BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. — The attorney for a man accused of driving drunk and causing a 2012 collision in Jackson County that killed a woman says charges against the man should be dismissed because he suffered severe head injuries and isn't competent to assist in his defense.
Thomas E. Jahnke, 35, is charged with felony homicide and causing injury by the intoxicated use of a vehicle. His public defender, Bill Poss, said Jahnke had "substantial head injuries and is in assisted living," the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/1aleY6M ).
"He just is not competent to assist in his defense," Poss said Monday.
Jahnke, formerly of Black River Falls and now of Bartlett, Ill., sped through a stop sign in December 2012 and slammed into another car, killing a passenger in the other car and injuring its driver, according to the criminal complaint.
Jahnke's blood-alcohol content was 0.185 percent, which is more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent, the complaint said.
Poss said one psychologist reported that Jahnke was competent to assist in his defense, but Poss didn't agree with that conclusion. He said a neurologist reached a conclusion "more in our favor" and said he would ask the judge to consider that.
"The issue is his mental capacity — his memory and things," Poss said. "He can't recall anything regarding the accident."
Jackson County district attorney Gerald Fox told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the defense had been asked to seek a second opinion. He said the question wasn't one of mental illness but whether Jahnke was so disabled he could not help with his defense.
If Jahnke is found incompetent, the charge would probably be dismissed, although it could be reinstated if Jahnke's health improves to the point where he regains competence.
The current charges carry a maximum penalty of 22½ years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
Poss noted that there's nothing preventing the victims' families from filing a lawsuit.
"My sympathy certainly goes out to them regarding this situation," he said.
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