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Video evidence accidentally erased in OWI case



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June 03, 2014 | 04:49 PM
ELKHORN — On Monday morning, Judge David Reddy rejected a Lake Geneva woman’s request to have her criminal case dismissed because police accidentally destroyed some of the evidence.

Debra Stanislawski, 48, faces a felony fourth-offense drunken driving charge with a passenger who is under 16.

Stanislawski was arrested on Jan. 15, 2013, after her child allegedly ran out of Stanislawski’s car and into Central-Denison Elementary School.

Inside of the school, which the girl doesn’t attend, she reportedly hid under a secretary’s desk until police arrived.

The girl reportedly told police her mother had been drinking and was driving, according to court testimony.

When police arrived on the scene, they report that Stanislawski was in her vehicle outside of the school. She was eventually arrested and transported to Lakeland Medical Center for a blood draw.

During a March 18 motion hearing, Lake Geneva Police Det. Joseph Ecklund transported Stanislawski to the hospital and wrote in his police report that he activated the squad’s camera. However, that video recording is now gone.

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During a previous motion hearing, Ecklund testified that his understanding is that the internal memory on the camera’s DVR records over itself after one year. Police never copied that recording.

On Monday afternoon, Lake Geneva Police Lt. Edward Gritzner said it was a technical issue that caused the recording to delete.

He said it was a fluke, and that this is the only time he has known it to happen and he is comfortable that it won’t happen again.

“We had a procedure in place at the time, and we still do, our data entry clerks go and download that video to disk and place it in our evidence room,” Gritzner said. “That one, for whatever reason, never recorded, there was technical glitch.”

Gritzner said all the videos get classified in the system. If a video is classified as an OWI, it’s saved forever. However, that video was classified as a transport and only saved for one year.

Stanislawski attorney, Karyn Missimer, took over the case on March 13. During the proceeding, Missimer told Reddy that she couldn’t find a record of her client’s previous attorney, Peter Wilson, requesting that discovery evidence.

Missimer said the squad car video could potentially be exculpatory evidence — meaning it showed that Stanislawski was not intoxicated at the time of her arrest.

“The state had a duty to preserve that video,” Missimer said.

During the previous motion hearing, Stanislawski also testified that she initially refused to have her blood drawn, but testified that the police threatened to charge her with obstructing justice. She said she eventually “caved-in.

When handing out his ruling, Reddy said that for the case to be dismissed, or for the blood test to be suppressed, Stanislawski couldn’t be able to obtain comparable evidence.

Reddy said that Stanislawski would be able to cross-examine Ecklund, which would be comparable to the video evidence.

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