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In year of big stories, legal news was the biggest

By GRETCHEN EHLKE
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Violence and arson on the north side of Milwaukee after the fatal shooting of a black man by police. A big development in the “Making a Murderer” case that so transfixed TV viewers nationwide. A gunman who opened fire on prom-goers in a small northern Wisconsin town.

A look back:

MILWAUKEE VIOLENCE

Sylville Smith (Milwaukee County Sheriff via AP)

Sylville Smith (Milwaukee County Sheriff via AP)

Dominique Heaggan-Brown (Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Dominique Heaggan-Brown (Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

In August, a north side Milwaukee neighborhood erupted in two nights of violence following the police shooting of a young black man, Sylville Smith. His death at the hands of a black Milwaukee officer unleashed simmering anger in the Sherman Park neighborhood, with eight businesses burned, other properties looted and several officers and civilians injured. In a rare move, the officer who killed Smith, Dominique Heaggan-Brown, was charged in December with first-degree reckless homicide. Heaggan-Brown had already been fired after he was charged in a separate case with sexual assault.

TWIST IN ‘MAKING A MURDERER’ CASE

dassey1

U.S. Magistrate William Duffin ruled in August that investigators coerced Brendan Dassey, who was 16 years old at the time and suffered from cognitive problems, into confessing to helping his uncle, Steven Avery, rape and kill Halbach at the Avery family salvage yard in Manitowoc County. Dassey was sentenced to life in prison in 2007.

His release appeared imminent until the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago stepped in at the last minute to keep Dassey behind bars while state attorneys appealed a decision that overturned his conviction.

OTHER CASES

Anissa Weier, accused of trying to kill a classmate to please horror character Slender Man, listens to her attorney Joseph Smith during a hearing at Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wis., Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Weier entered a plea on Friday of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to the attempted homicide charge. (Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Anissa Weier, accused of trying to kill a classmate to please horror character Slender Man, listens to her attorney Joseph Smith during a hearing at Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha on Sept. 9. (Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

A key court ruling kept two girls accused trying to kill their classmate in an attempt to please a fictional horror character called Slender Man in adult court. Attorneys for the girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, who were 12 at the time of the 2014 attack, argued they should be tried in juvenile court. An appeals court disagreed and the girls entered pleas of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to attempted homicide in a stabbing that left their classmate with 19 wounds that nearly killed her.

A West Allis man was accused of fatally shooting a woman riding with her family in a car on Interstate 90/94. Zach Hays was also accused of killing his neighbor earlier in the day on May 1.

The state Department of Justice decided against taking Mark Jensen’s case to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting up a retrial in Kenosha County, where he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2008 in the antifreeze-poisoning death of his wife, Julie Jensen.

In April, a shooting outside the prom at Antigo High School left the small northern Wisconsin city shaken. An Antigo officer who shot and killed the gunman, Jakob Wagner, said he saw him open fire on the prom-goers. Two teens were injured.

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