Mereness loses appeal in federal court

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Gazette Staff
Friday, May 14, 2010

A man convicted of a 2002 Janesville murder has lost an appeal in federal court.

William J. Mereness was convicted in Rock County Court of first-degree intentional homicide and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of release in 2003.

He was found guilty of murdering his estranged wife, Jennifer Judge, a Spanish teacher at Janesville Craig High School.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed Wisconsin courts’ decisions that, while Mereness was denied his constitutional right to confront an accuser, that denial was harmless.

The testimony in question was that of an Appleton detective who interviewed Mereness’ mother.

The detective testified that Mereness’ mother said that she asked Mereness if asked if he killed Jennifer Judge, and he replied, “Yes, I’m really sorry.”

Mereness’ mother died before trial, but the judge allowed the prosecution to introduce her hearsay statements through the detective.

Mereness’ father heard the same confession and testified about it at trial.

The federal court agreed with state court rulings that although the detective’s hearsay testimony should not have been admitted, Mereness would, beyond a reasonable doubt, have been convicted without that testimony.

Last updated: 1:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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