Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser made no misstatements during his argument to the court in the Forest Shomberg case. The misstatements are entirely those of Isthmus ("Justice for Forest Shomberg," 12/11/09).
According to [an opinion column by Bill Lueders in] Isthmus, in his argument to the court, Mr. Kaiser misrepresented the testimony of two alibi witnesses. This is inaccurate. What Isthmus reads as Mr. Kaiser's reference to the testimony of these alibi witnesses is clearly Mr. Kaiser's argument about the testimony of the defendant himself.
It was Mr. Shomberg who said nothing until he testified about watching movies or about everyone being awake at 3 a.m. When read in the context of the evidence and arguments as a whole, this is the only construction of the statements that makes sense. It is obvious from the record that those present at the trial, most importantly the fact-finding judge, accurately heard Mr. Kaiser's argument, and that Isthmus' misreading is the result of focusing erroneously on isolated portions of the trial transcript.
Finally, it is a journalistic low for Isthmus to assert that a busy assistant district attorney "rebuffed" a reporter by taking a few too many days to look into the reporter's claim before responding. Isthmus could have avoided its serious errors and unfair attack by waiting for a response. It was doubly unfair to run this inaccurate version of facts while also claiming that the prosecutor had refused to communicate about the case.
Judy Schwaemle, Deputy district attorney, Dane County District Attorney's Office
Bill Lueders replies: My column accurately reported that a motion filed by the Wisconsin Innocence Project alleged that Kaiser made multiple misstatements about the alibi witnesses. Having reviewed the record and specific challenges presented in emails from Schwaemle, I think this is a fair assertion - although I would have noted the office's alternative interpretations, had they been provided.
Importantly, Innocence Project attorney Byron Lichstein, whom Schwaemle lobbied to change his stand after my column ran, informed her: "While I can understand how you would interpret the transcript as you have, I don't think it's clear-cut. I think the portion of the transcript you cite can be fairly read in the manner I argued. Further, that isn't the only inaccurate statement I argued, and my review of the other examples reconfirms my opinion...that some of the arguments as to the alibi [witnesses] were inaccurate. Given that, I don't think I'm in a position to rebuke Isthmus for relying on my argument."
It is untrue and unfair for Schwaemle to claim that Kaiser merely "[took] a few too many days to look into the reporter's claim before responding." Kaiser, contacted a week before the column ran, did not acknowledge my email and voice-mail messages. He did not convey to me any intention to reply, and has not to this day.
Regarding the article about Quaker Housing's roof woes ("Quaker's Costs Go Through the Roof," 12/11/09): The Ganser Company is well known to me my father and uncles built houses from the '50s to the '90s, so the name was heard 'round the table. But they seem to have forgotten what their name stands for.
If I was a contractor, I would learn from the judgment [in Ganser's favor] that I can do a shoddy or untimely job and then walk away with a grin on my face, knowing that I'll still get paid.
Karen Way, Monona
Correction: James R. Law was mayor of Madison from 1932 to 1943, not until 1944, as stated in a Watchdog item last week.