December 2nd, 2008
The Falk administration’s handling of this ordeal has been abysmal. The prosecutors also have a lot of explaining to do.
The Wisconsin State Journal has the latest in the Brittany Zimmermann case.
The notorious 911 call from Brittany Zimmermann’s cell phone the day she died carried the sounds of a woman’s screams and a struggle, according to long-sealed search warrants obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Madison police and Dane County officials have for months refused to disclose the content of the call, which has been at the center of a public controversy over operations, management and staffing at the county 911 center.
The case has drawn intense public interest because police said a stranger with an unknown motive may have killed Zimmermann and because the center mishandled the call, significantly delaying the police response.
On April 2, when Zimmermann’s fiance found her at their West Doty Street apartment, she was cold and lifeless and she had been stabbed in the heart so many times that he thought she had been shot in the chest, one of the warrants revealed.
The six search warrants unsealed in Dane County Circuit Court give the public glimpses for the first time into secrets long held by investigators who have been trying — without success — to find Zimmermann’s killer.
The warrants include police statements describing the 911 call from the UW-Madison student’s phone.
“The disconnect call started with the sound of a woman screaming and the line remains active and open picking up the background sounds of a struggle for a short period of time,” according to a description of the call by Madison Police Detective Marion Morgan.
Adding further insult, the family learned these details from a reporter, not from investigators. Further, the DA had intended to keep these details under wraps, even though they would not impact their investigation, but they accidentally let the seal keeping them secret expire.
The warrants, most of them filed in April with one in June, have been sealed and resealed by judges at the request of police and Dane County prosecutors. The latest seal on all of the warrants, however, expired last week and no request was made to extend them.
Police and prosecutors didn’t intend to unseal the warrants and intended to seek a judge’s order to extend the seals, District Attorney Brian Blanchard said. The failure to request an extension was an “oversight,” he said.
Neither Blanchard nor Madison Police Central District Capt. Mary Schauf would say if the police or the district attorney’s office was at fault for the oversight, but Blanchard said it’s a “collaborative process with shared responsibilities.”
Blanchard said he would not seek to have the records resealed.
“I don’t know what the point would be of that,” he said.
Schauf said the unsealing of the warrants would have little impact on the investigation.
“These are old search warrants,” Schauf said. “They aren’t going to have any long-term effect on where we are going in the case.
Voters in 2006’s race for Attorney General are well aware that Falk had absolutely no criminal prosecution experience. Kathleen Falk hasn’t prosecuted one criminal case in her life, not one, ever. And while she doesn’t run the office of the District Attorney, she is the chief executive of Dane County.
When the 911 emergency call center study in 2004 called for more funding, Falk’s first reaction was to cut funding. Instead of asking for an independent study to determine if Dane County had adequate jail space, she demands ways to return criminals back to the streets more quickly after their arrest. But there is always money for more green space.
Fortunately for voters in Dane County, Falk must face the voters and reapply for her job next spring.