Wisconsin Appeals Court Okays New Trial in 25-year-old Murder Case
By org jforward wisbar Joe Forward, Legal Writer,
State Bar of Wisconsin
July 25, 2012
– Today, a state appeals court upheld a circuit court’s
decision to grant a new trial to Terry Vollbrecht, accused
and convicted for a gruesome murder that occurred in 1987.
The state used circumstantial evidence to convict Vollbrecht of raping and killing Angela Hackl, who was found dead in a wooded area of
Sauk City. Hackl’s nude body was hanging from a tree
by tire chains, with three gun shots in her back. Vollbrecht told police he was with Hackl that night, and had consensual sex with
her in a car, but maintained his innocence.
No witness or evidence directly linked Vollbrecht to the
murder. In 2009, after other appeals failed, Vollbrecht filed a motion for a new trial based
on newly discovered evidence, and alleged the state violated a duty to
disclose exculpatory evidence.
Specifically, Vollbrecht says there is evidence that another
man committed the murder, and the evidence was not available at his
trial. Indeed, a man named Kim Brown committed a similar murder in a
neighboring county six months before the Hackl murder.
Brown confessed and was serving time for killing Linda Nachreiner, who was found in a wooded area
chained to a tree and shot in the back. Law enforcement erroneously told
Vollbrecht’s defense team Brown was
working the night of Hackl’s murder.
Thus, the defense team abandoned attempts to link Brown to the crime. In
fact, Brown was not working that night.
After conducting post-trial discovery, Vollbrecht’s defense
team argued that it had new evidence implicating Brown, including
but not limited to guns and torture books found at Brown’s
residence and testimony from Brown’s fellow prison inmates that
Brown confessed to Hackl’s murder.
Vollbrecht, who is serving a life sentence, requested a new trial
under Wis. Stat. section 805.15(1),
which allows a party to seek a new trial in the interests of justice if
newly discovered evidence exists. The Sauk County Circuit Court granted
the motion, and the state appealed.
v. Vollbrecht, 2011AP425 (July 25, 2012), the District II
Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Vollbrecht met the
elements required to get a new trial for newly discovered evidence. That
is, the evidence was discovered post-conviction, Vollbrecht was not
negligent is discovering it, and the evidence is material and not merely
“Having reviewed the record and deferring to the postconviction
court’s extensive findings of fact, we independently conclude that
there is a reasonable probability that a jury, looking at both the old
evidence and the new evidence, would have reasonable doubt as to
Volbrecht’s guilt,” wrote Judge Neubauer for the three-judge
panel, which remanded for a new trial.