February 16, 2009

In defense of Randy Koschnick

Some observers are apparently amused by the fact that Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick received an "endorsement" of sorts from convicted "cop killer" Theodore Oswald, transmitted from State prison via a letter to the Associated Press and reported here.

Oswald was tried and convicted for the 1994 first-degree homicide of a police officer during the course of an armed robbery spree in Waukesha County and then-State public defender Randy Koschnick was one of Oswald's trial attorneys.

I thought Judge Koschnick's reaction was pretty impressive: "He is free to say whatever he wants, but his endorsement is no honor to me," the AP quotes him as remarking. No more, no less.

I respect Judge Koschnick for that response. Obviously he neither sought nor welcomes Theodore Oswald's endorsement.

As a longtime aficionado of gallows humor and irony myself, I get the amusement, even if I don't necessarily share in it. In this instance, it may be held against Judge Koschnick for political purposes, and I consider that profoundly unjust.

I also understand the charges of hypocrisy that the endorsement has generated, but those charges have nothing to do with Koschnick himself but rather some of his supporters, who on the one hand laud the candidate for his experience and on the other criticized former Justice Louis Butler for the identical professional experience.

Not content to leave it at that, former mayor of Madison Paul Soglin writes at his blog:
Of course, none of this gets us to the role Koschnick played as Oswald's attorney in 1994 and 1995, in advising his convicted client not to cooperate with law enforcement officials who wanted to question the Oswalds about their role in other felonies. Despite Ted Oswald's life sentence with no opportunity for parole, Koschnick advised his client not to answer police officers' questions about other major crimes, including at least one attempted murder.
First of all, Oswald was found guilty on June 6, 1995, so it's difficult to conceive that Randy Koschnick was representing him as a "convicted client" anytime prior to that.

Secondly, as for "the Oswalds" plural, paterfamilias James Oswald had separate counsel. It wasn't Koschnick. Thus it's highly unlikely that Koschnick was rendering legal advice to James Oswald.

And by April 24, 1996, Koschnick was withdrawn from the Theodore Oswald case altogether.

Third, and most importantly, one should be much, much more concerned if Atty. Koschnick hadn't advised his client of his constitutional rights. Whether or not Oswald chose to abide by that counsel or to cooperate or not is his own individual decision.

Among the lawyer's prescribed roles is to advise his client, and that advice is to reflect the best interests of the client. Ultimately, however, the client makes those decisions, such as choosing to waive his constitutional rights.

And all of the foregoing assumes Mayor Soglin is even describing the circumstances surrounding that advice accurately.

Personally, I am far more inclined to give Koschnick the benefit of the doubt, in that whatever advice he gave Oswald as his client included apprising Oswald of the various benefits and pitfalls potentially accruing from whatever course of action Oswald chose.

That was his job and by every account he did it well. Somebody on this side of the fence had to say it. Might as well be me.


William Tyroler said...

Superb post.

Other Side said...

You are a civilized man, Tom.

Scot1and said...

Great post.

As I have stated previously, Koschnick's conduct and reversals as a Judge are fair game but I cannot fault him for doing his job as a DA.