HUDSON — Kayle Alan Fleischauer will be tried — again — in the shooting death of his teenage son after a judge ruled Monday, Aug. 12, that a home experiment by one of the jurors directly violated the court’s instructions and was cause for a new trial.
St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham said in his 25 years as a judge he has always held jury integrity as a foundation of the judicial system.
“Unfortunately, given the events that have now come to light in this particular case, that foundation has been cracked and my comfort and confidence shaken,” the judge said. “To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement.”
Jurors were read instructions, Needham explained, that stated “do not investigate this case on your own,” and the case was to be decided “based on the evidence presented in this courtroom.”
Furthermore, Needham said jurors were instructed to inform the bailiff or the court as soon as they learned of any misconduct.
"My trust in the integrity of the system has been compromised, not just because of the actions of one juror in conducting an outside experiment and reporting the results to the balance of the panel, because not one of the 11 jurors who were witnesses to that misconduct, timely reported it to the bailiff or to the court," he said.
The juror admitted at a July 23 hearing that she conducted a test to see if her dogs could disturb an unloaded handgun left on the floor of her house.
Defense attorney Earl Gray filed a motion saying the 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.
Fleischauer was convicted by the jury in June of second-degree reckless homicide.
According to Gray, Fleischauer will be tried only on the second-degree reckless charge since he was acquitted of the initial charges of first-degree intentional and first-degree reckless homicide.
Needham said there hasn’t been a day since the defense filed its retrial motion that he hasn’t thought about this case. He said he found that there was a “reasonable possibility” that the experiment had the potential for prejudicial effect.
“I renew my overall disappointment and dismay at the conduct of juror M.E.B. and although the state has granted her immunity, find her behavior in direct violation of the court's orders,” the judge said. “Everyone who participated or witnessed the trial knows how difficult it was emotionally, intellectually — in fact, morally.”
In his tenure as judge, Needham said, he has only ordered a jury to be sequestered one time. The second time will be when the state takes up its case yet again against Fleischauer, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 24, 2020.
"As I said on Day 1 of the trial and now confirm: If jurors do not comply with these rules, it could, and now will, result in a new trial involving additional time and significant expense to the parties and the taxpayers of St. Croix County," Needham said.