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This endorsement no badge of honor

February 15, 2009|Associated Press

MADISON, WIS. — Unsolicited praise from a convicted cop-killer isn't the kind of endorsement a judge with a tough law enforcement stance wants.

But that's what Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick got from former client Ted Oswald, a man convicted of killing a police captain in 1994. The judge is now seeking a position on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In a letter sent to the Associated Press, Oswald said Koschnick, his former public defender, did "exceedingly productive and good work" on his case in 1994 and '95.

"If Judge Koschnick is selected for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, his voluminous first-hand knowledge of defense cases and the personalities of accused criminals would bestow to that court a fairer, more effective and more trustworthy perspective," Oswald wrote. "I only observed his practice on one case, but I would be inclined to see it his way."

Oswald is serving a life prison term for killing a Waukesha police captain after robbing a bank with his father. When Oswald, then 18, and his father were pulled over after the robbery, they opened fire on police with semiautomatic rifles. They also took a woman hostage and injured two other officers before they were arrested.

Koschnick and colleague Samuel Benedict were assigned to represent Oswald. They argued that the teen's abusive father had brainwashed him into participating in the crimes.

Koschnick's defense of Oswald and his 14 years as a public defender have become an issue in his race against Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson in the April 7 election.

Koschnick, who has served on the bench since 1999, has been endorsed by police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys. But in previous races, critics have successfully argued that the work of public defenders undermines that of law enforcement. Another public defender-turned-judge, former Justice Louis Butler, was defeated in his reelection bid last year after opponents said his background indicated that he was soft on crime.

Koschnick predicted that his critics would exploit Oswald's case but said he was proud of his work as a defense attorney. Still, he didn't return the convicted killer's praise.

"He is free to say whatever he wants, but his endorsement is no honor to me," the judge said in a statement.

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