Hung Jury in Brantner Case, New Trial Could be Scheduled
It was high drama in a Fond Du Lac courtroom Wednesday morning as a judge declares a 'hung jury' in the trial of 62-year-old Dennis Brantner.
Judge Dennis Sharpe dismissed the 12 jurors after 3 days of deliberation. The trial lasted 13 days total.
Now prosecutors are trying to figure out how to move forward. Options on the table include moving forward with a second trial.
The morning started with bad news from a bailiff, Judge Sharpe said.
"One of the jurors had a health issue and went to the emergency room last night but apparently against medical advice to stay overnight that juror elected to not do so and come back today," Judge Sharpe said.
That concerning news was interrupted by a waving hand emerging from the door at the front of the courtroom. Judge Sharpe unceremoniously grabbed the message.
"I have received a new message from the foreperson. We cannot agree on guilty or not guilty," Judge Sharpe said.
Procedurally, a mistrial will be declared in the case of a hung jury. The jurors were dismissed within a half-hour of the message delivery.
"We ask for privacy for the family as they gather their thoughts and seek the Lord as they move forward with the next step," Racine Bible Church Pastor Dan Miller said. He spoke on behalf of the family.
Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney repeated the message for most questions asked in the scrum of reporters.
"Well I think the jury spent a lot of time. They worked hard. From my perspective you could see the emotion on many of their faces. And we appreciate the service that the jury did. We really appreciate it," Toney said.
The attorney representing Dennis Brantner, Craig Powell, agreed that despite the jury not reaching a verdict, they did their job.
"That burden on a jury is tremendous and you could tell they were shouldering it and it was a difficult decision from what they had to work with. And I don't fault them for not being able to reach a decision. That's a courageous act in and of itself," Powell said.
Brantner will remain in the Fond du Lac County jail on a $500,000 bond. Powell says - although this development is frustrating - there's is also 'hope' coming from it.
"What they presented wasn't good enough to convict Mr. Brantner. They couldn't convince 12 people that he was guilty of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Couldn't do it. And again, I think with a fuller evidenciary picture, perhaps, if it's tried again he'll walk away as he should," Powell said.
The Beck family is focusing on the past: the death of their relative 18-year-old Berit Beck.
"Their faith has been outstanding through this. I think the attitude that they've demonstrated has been incredible as they trust in the Lord and seek him. It's been amazing to watch," Pastor Miller.
What happens next: Judge Sharpe will contact both prosecutors and Brantner's attorney to schedule a conference. From there they will decide how to move forward. One option on the table - and entirely new trial.
Brantner still stands accused in the murder of 18-year-old Berit Beck who was killed on her way to a job interview in 1990. Her body was discovered six months later in a ditch near Waupan.