You’d think the Vernon Herschberger raw milk case was going to be the trial of the decade the way the prosecutors are pulling out all the stops to stack the deck in their favour with pre-trial maneuverings. But now a new factor, Vernon’s Amish faith and its relation to the legal system, has been brought into play.
“At today’s (Friday) hearing, the issue was freedom and protection of religion, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
That issue came up when Judge Guy Reynolds sided with the state in agreeing, at the prosecution’s request, to block retired pathologist Ted Beals from testifying on behalf of Hershberger. Prosecutors argued that Beals’ testimony was irrelevant, because the case was about licenses, not health and sanitation issues.
Defense lawyer Elizabeth Rich countered that the DATCP “Hold Order” implemented by DATCP in June 2010 via tags and tape affixed to Hershberger’s farm store refrigerators, included findings that the products subject to the Order were misbranded or adulterated and hazardous to health. She further argued that DATCP’s subsequent Summary Special Order backing up the Hold Order said raw milk was inherently dangerous.
Rich argued that Hershberger had a right to challenge those findings in his criminal trial. The judge asked the prosecutors whether Hershberger had had an opportunity to challenge the findings earlier. A prosecutor said the Summary Special Order included a recitation of appeal rights–Hershberger could have filed an administrative appeal of the Order, but he did not. Based on that, the judge ruled that Beals’ testimony could not come in.
Rich said that, to the extent the judge’s ruling was based on Hershberger ‘s failure to file the administrative appeal of the orders, it violated his First Amendment rights, because he has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents him from being the aggressor in any legal proceedings….”
“First, the Wisconsin prosecutors pursuing raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger went after jury nullification, and convinced a judge to instruct jurors in his upcoming trial they can’t side with the accused farmer if they disagree with the laws he is accused of violating.
Next, the Wisconsin prosecutors tried a highly unusual move to subpoena three news reporters to testify against Hershberger.–this time the judge refused to go along.
Now, the Wisconsin prosecutors are pushing the judge hearing the case to instruct the jury that they need only determine Hershberger violated the law, and ignore the critical issue of criminal intent.
A hearing on this last issue comes up Friday before Sauk County Judge Guy Reynolds, and Hershberger’s lawyers are fighting hard against this latest state maneuver.
This case is taking on all the trappings of a serious murder or drug trafficking case, as the state is clearly devoting huge resources to gaining every possible legal advantage in preparation of the trial’s scheduled start Jan. 7. As just another indication, some 70 witness are expected to be called….”