February trial now set in Fodness case, 7 day jury trial to begin February 4

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — A new trial date has now been set in Rusk County in February for a former Colfax resident.

Michael Fodness, 44, has been charged in Dunn County with 14 counts that include child enticement and repeated sexual assault of the same child. He was scheduled to go on trial August 27 in Rusk County.

Jury selection for the trial was scheduled to begin in Ladysmith on August 24, but on August 23, the Honorable Judge William Stewart postponed the trial because Fodness had been taken to the hospital the previous evening with appendicitis.

Fodness appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court September 7 with his attorney, Shirlene Perrin, for a scheduling conference.

Judge Stewart said he had spent time in Rusk County the previous week trying to find calendar dates that would work for the courtroom and the clerk of court’s staff.

The judge had previously granted a change of venue in the case not because of pre-trial publicity but because of the number of potential victims and witnesses in this area.

Jury

For the previously-scheduled August trial, one day had been set aside for jury selection, and Andrew Maki, the Dunn County assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, asked the court if the February trial also would have one day devoted to jury selection.

Judge Stewart said that jury selection and opening statements would occur on the first day of the trial because he was satisfied that court personnel in Rusk County were good at weeding out potential jurors who might have a problem attending the full seven days of the trial.
The previous trial had been scheduled for six days, but Judge Stewart increased the trial time by one day to seven.

“I am optimistic we can select a jury and do opening statements on the first day,” Judge Stewart said, noting that he would not plan to end the day early if jury selection goes quickly and the opening statements of the defense and the prosecution are completed.

The first day of the trial may also include one or two witnesses, he said.

The list of witnesses for both defense and prosecution are long, and “we will be busy fitting in all the witnesses,” Judge Stewart said.

The jury trial for Michael Fodness is scheduled in Rusk County from February 4 through February 12, 2013.

A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on February 1.

Maki asked if the court could be flexible about taking witnesses out of the order on the witness list.

Some of the witnesses will be traveling a long distance, from Milwaukee, for example, and being able to take the witnesses out of order would be helpful, he said.

Judge Stewart assured Maki that the order of the witnesses would not be a problem and that he would inform the jury when the time comes that witnesses may testify out of order.

Medical issues

In addition to rescheduling the trial, Perrin said she wanted to address the court about medical issues concerning her client.

Perrin said Fodness’s skin color was not very good and that she wanted him to be evaluated by medical personnel.

“I am concerned he is anemic,” she said.

Perrin told the court that Fodness was given antibiotics after the appendicitis surgery that made him ill and that she thought he needed to see a doctor.

According to jail personnel present in the courtroom, Fodness had gone to a follow-up appointment with his surgeon on Tuesday, September 4, and a doctor who provides medical care at the jail visits every Thursday. A registered nurse is on duty at the jail five days a week.
Judge Stewart suggested that the registered nurse have daily contact with Fodness to monitor his health.

“He does not believe his medical care is adequate,” Perrin said.

Judge Stewart suggested that Fodness sign a release for his medical records from the surgeon so the jail nurse and doctor could review the records.

Even if the judge ordered Fodness taken to a doctor immediately, the lack of a release for the medical records would present a problem, Judge Stewart said.

Looking directly at Fodness, Sergeant Dale Dohms, also present in the courtroom, suggested that it would be helpful if Fodness would write down his concerns and then “cooperate fully” with the jailers and the doctor and the nurse.

At one point in the case, the Fodness trial had been scheduled for February of this year.

Fodness remains in custody on a $100,000 cash bond.