The 43-year-old man convicted of reckless homicide in the shooting death of his teenage son is seeking a new trial and to vacate a guilty verdict amid allegations of juror misconduct during deliberations.
Kayle Fleischauer appeared Tuesday, July 23, in St. Croix County Circuit Court, where a juror from his June trial was questioned about information she shared during deliberations. The juror, who identified herself in court as Mary Ellen Benshoof, admitted to performing a test to see if her dogs could disturb an unloaded handgun left on the floor of her house
“I wanted to see what they would do,” she said at the hearing.
Defense attorney Earl Gray filed a motion saying the juror’s experiment undermined a key facet of his argument — that loose dogs at the New Richmond crime scene could have disturbed the gun, found 10 feet from Chase Fleischauer’s body. Gray’s contention at trial was that the 19-year-old fatally shot himself during the April 14, 2018, incident.
“The 10 foot distance was big for the state,” Gray wrote. “A juror brought forth an extraneous test bolstering the state’s argument and diminishing, if not destroying, the defense argument. The reasonable possibility of a prejudicial effect on a hypothetical jury is extreme.”
Prosecutors downplayed the significance of Gray’s theory involving the dogs, arguing the juror’s information would not have swayed the jury. The state argued in a court filing that if dogs had run through the bloody crime scene, there would have been blood on the animals’ paws and bloody paw prints in the house.
Prosecutors also said the dogs were kept in a room during the episode and that they weren’t loose until police arrived.
“The evidence that the dogs were not present around Chase after the defendant shot him far outweighs the juror’s alleged experiment,” Assistant Attorney General Robert Kaiser Jr. wrote in a brief.
Benshoof told St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham that she performed the test the morning of the second day of deliberations. That testimony conflicted with a statement from the juror who brought the incident to authorities’ attention. That juror, who identified himself in court as George Gilsdorf, said the information was shared the morning of the third day of deliberations — the day the verdict was reached.
Needham said no criminal statutes exist related to the alleged misconduct, but contempt of court laws could be in play and that fines or jail could be imposed.
Prosecutors, however, offered Benshoof immunity in exchange for her truthful testimony; she was previously prepared to invoke her right to remain silent. Needham explained the immunity offer required him to make her answer his questions about the incident.
Benshoof said that after performing the test at home, she returned to deliberations and asked the 11 other jurors if they wanted to hear what she’d done. She said they did and she described her test. Fellow jurors didn’t register a notable reaction, Benshoof said.
Needham took the issue under advisement and said he would issue a ruling on the motion for a new trial and to vacate the verdict at a later date.
Fleischauer’s sentencing is set for Aug. 30