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Man jailed for sharing opinion on justice system

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Ted Sullivan
October 13, 2008
— The Walworth County judge who jailed a potential juror for comments about the judicial system said "dry words on a page in a transcript" do not show the entire picture of the man's behavior.

"You had to be here," Judge Michael Gibbs said Friday.


When asked during jury selection Aug. 12 whether he'd had a bad experience with police, David W. Jutz, 54, of Delavan responded:


"Well, it's pretty much the police will say and do anything they want to make a case, and the courts aren't really fair about it. Because if they got money, you can get out of it."


In response, Gibbs ordered Jutz in contempt of court and ordered him to spend 24 hours in the Walworth County Jail and pay a $50 fine.


"Your comments were designed to influence this trial. They were designed to express contempt for this court," Gibbs told Jutz, according to the transcript.


The incident occurred during the jury selection for the trial of a man charged with disorderly conduct.


Attorneys were asking potential jurors questions to see whether they had any bias against police and whether they could be fair.


The Janesville Gazette obtained a transcript of the hearing.


After Jutz spoke, Assistant District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld asked him whether he could listen to trial testimony of officers despite his bad experience with police.


"Nope, nope," Jutz replied.


The judge then dismissed Jutz from the jury pool.


"Mr. Jutz, with your attitude, we don't want you on the jury," Gibbs said. "But I'll tell you one thing, you're not going anywhere. You're going to sit here and watch the whole trial in the back of the room."


Jutz responded: "That's fine with me. I didn't know attitude was against the law."


The judge later ordered Jutz in contempt after jurors were selected and out of the courtroom. He then asked Jutz to respond.


"They asked me if I had a run-in with police. I made my statement as far as what I saw and, ah, I've had that experience where police officers have lied to make a case," Jutz said.


"I didn't mean to make contempt in court," he said. "The police, in my experiences, they have lied to make their cases. And if that's the way I am, that's the way I am.


"I don't, ahI can't apologize."


The judge disagreed with Jutz's recollection of his statement.


"Well, that's not exactly the way you said it. What you said was the police will lie anytime to make their case and the court system is corrupt because anyone with money can get out of it," Gibbs said.


Jutz responded: "Well, no. I didn't say the court system is corrupt. It's that if a person has money ... (they) can hire a good attorney and they can pretty much get justice.


"A person that does not have money and gets a court-appointed attorney or represents himself is looked upon that they can't afford to have justice so they are found guilty."


The judge then ordered a bailiff to escort Jutz to jail.


A second potential juror, Lee Fickau of East Troy, said he knew Jutz and his family. He asked the judge whether he could speak on Jutz's behalf.


"You're not invited to speak on his behalf. That's not what this is about," Gibbs responded, adding that he was aware of Jutz's family.


State statutes define contempt of court as misconduct in the court, interference with court proceedings or not giving the court respect.


A judge can punish someone for contempt of court for the "purpose of preserving order in the court and protecting the authority and dignity of the court."


A person held in contempt has no recourse other than to file a writ of habeas corpus, which allows a person to fight incarceration.


Gibbs said Friday the code of judicial conduct prohibited him from commenting on specifics of the incident.


Jutz could not be reached for comment.


Wiedenfeld declined to comment on the incident, but the defense attorney, Valerian Powell, said it was unusual.


"I've never seen or heard of a juror being found in contempt," Powell said.


Tara Trent of Lake Geneva, a juror in the trial, said Jutz was boisterous when he spoke.


"He was very abrupt and rude to the judge," Trent said.


Mary Ann Zwiebel of Lake Geneva, also a juror, said Jutz went on a tirade.


"He was obnoxious," Zwiebel said.


Penny Tidwell of Williams Bay, also a juror, said people snickered.


"He made a big fool of himself," Tidwell said.



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