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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

The Madison Strangler, Part II

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No one who has followed the Wisconsin Supreme Court really expected any justice to be done in the investigation of Justice David Prosser putting his hands around the neck of a female justice who had ordered him out of her chambers.

The venomous malice between four right-wing justices who control the majority and their three more liberal colleagues has been public for some time.

The open hostility turned physical on June 13 when minority Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Prosser of putting her in a chokehold in a dispute witnessed by all but one of the other justices.

Even if a special prosecutor had filed charges against Prosser, no one seriously expected anything to happen to him. The final decision would go to the Supreme Court itself and Prosser's right-wing majority has no qualms about ignoring their own improprieties.

As it turned out, the official closing of the case made the court look even worse and Prosser even creepier.

First, you had Republican special prosecutor Patricia Barrett announcing not only that she wouldn't charge Prosser, but she wouldn't charge Bradley either.

Prosecutors sometimes have to publicly acknowledge they do not have enough evidence to try an accused perpetrator, but it is absolutely bizarre to also announce the victim won't be charged.

What could Bradley possibly have been charged with—battering Prosser's hands with her neck?

None of the justices present, not even Prosser and his three majority colleagues, ever claimed Bradley laid a finger on Prosser.

But the full picture of just how bad this court is became clear in the individual testimony by the justices to investigators.

Prosser's statement had a kind of chilling, hallucinatory quality, as if he couldn't quite imagine how his hands came to be around the neck of a woman:

"Justice Prosser said, 'I remember feeling her neck.' Justice Prosser went on to say that he remembers the warmth on the side of Justice Bradley's neck in his hands as his hands were touching her neck."

After that little reverie, Prosser finally seems to realize what he's doing.

"What does any self-respecting man do when suddenly that man finds that his hands or part of his hands are on a woman's neck?" Prosser says. "Get them off the neck as soon as possible."

Of course, the other thing any self-respecting man does who somehow finds himself in such a bizarre situation is to immediately apologize.

Prosser didn't do that then, and he still refuses. Prosser says he feels he did nothing wrong.

That's odd since Prosser also said he agreed with Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs, who met with the justices several days later and told them it was never appropriate for a man to put his hands on a woman in the workplace.

Any woman in a work environment understands that. So would any man if his wife or daughter were the woman who found a colleague's hands around her neck.

The Court's Disturbing Actions

Because the witnesses were Supreme Court justices who are supposed to decide cases based on facts, it was particularly disturbing how several of the justices tortured the facts to try to protect Prosser.

Justice Pat Roggensack, one of Prosser's majority, was close enough to get between the two of them and pull Bradley away from Prosser. Yet, she claimed Prosser never had his hands around Bradley's neck, something not even Prosser denies.

Roggensack described some kind of hand trick where Prosser's thumbs were on the front of Bradley's throat "but his hands and his fingers were pointing straight up and were never around her neck."

What? And miss all that warmth?

Justice Michael Gableman has always had difficulty with the truth.

Gableman ran a racially charged television commercial accusing his opponent, Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, of freeing a child molester who then assaulted another child. It never happened. The man served his entire sentence.

Gableman didn't see Prosser put his hands around Bradley's neck either. It looked like her shoulders to him.

Gableman also perceived Bradley as much taller than Prosser. He compared the two of them together to a photograph of Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson leaning over a fellow senator to intimidate him over a vote.

When Bradley moved toward Prosser, ordering him out of her chambers, Gableman said, Prosser was "looking up" in "shock and surprise" and raised his hands to defend himself from big, bad Bradley.

At 5 feet 3 inches tall, Bradley is half a foot shorter than the 5-foot-9-inch Prosser.

The right-wing majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court makes up new facts just like it makes up new ethics rules and new laws to allow their own campaign contributors and Republican legislators to get away with anything they want.

Prosser is just one petty, volatile human being. The corruption of the court is much bigger than him. It's choking justice itself in Wisconsin.

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