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February 17, 2019

2/1/2019 2:59:00 PM
Attorney disagrees with reporting

Dear Editor:
As practicing Iowa County attorney, I have often been disappointed with The Dodgeville Chronicle's reporting on legal issues and pending cases. The January 17, 2019 article concerning the Austin Valdez case is yet another example of the Chronicle's poor journalism standards and displays a misunderstanding of not only the Valdez case, but of criminal law and procedure.
Mr. Valdez was charged with Second Degree Reckless Homicide in April of 2018. Mr. Valdez entered his not guilty plea at the arraignment for that charge. In August, District Attorney Nelson moved to amend the Information, (which is the charging document similar to a Criminal Complaint,) to First Degree Reckless Homicide. The Court granted Mr. Nelson's motion, however, the arraignment was not completed until January 18, 2019. Therefore, it was incorrect to say, "the amended charge is now on file," when it was actually the filing of the amended Information in preparation for the arraignment later that week. The filing of the Information and the subsequent arraignment is not news; those actions are purely procedural and routine.
The article also references "according to court documents" it is known what Mr. Valdez's testimony and theory of the case will be. Whether or not a defendant testifies is a determination that is made during the trial and to date, Mr. Valdez has not given any testimony. The theory of any defense is likewise not set in stone and typically is not indicated in advance.
Pretrial motions typically address admissibility of the evidence each side intends to offer at trial, and in this particular case, whether and what evidence of Mr. Reeson's character would be allowed at trial.
I will remind everyone that Mr. Valdez, like each and every other criminal defendant in the United States, is presumed innocent up to and until the state overwhelms that presumption with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether the state accomplishes that feat is for the jury alone to decide.
If the Chronicle staff does not understand legal concepts, legal definitions, constitutional and criminal law and procedure, I suggest they consult with one or more of the local attorneys who do understand and would be glad to offer assistance.
Suzanne Edwards

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