Trial postponed for Elkhorn man in vehicular homicide case

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Jonah Beleckis | December 6, 2016

ELKHORN—The jury trial scheduled this week for an Elkhorn man who is accused of killing a man almost two years ago in a car crash was postponed late Friday so an appellate court can review what arguments the defense can make.

James Duquette, the defense attorney for Aaron Gillett, filed a motion Friday with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District II asking the court to review an order from Walworth County Circuit Court Judge Phil Koss that said Duquette could not argue Gillett had an anxiety attack at the time of the accident.

On Jan. 22, 2015, Gillett was driving in the town of Delavan and told police he had an anxiety attack brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder and “may have crossed the center line,” according to the criminal complaint. Clarence Watson, 86, of Elkhorn tried to avoid Gillett's car but collided with it in a ditch.

Gillett served in Iraq from about 2007 until 2012, Duquette said. The crash happened after Gillett met with doctors as part of his effort to treat his PTSD, Duquette said.

“My client has nothing but sympathy and wishes condolences for the victims,” Duquette said. “He wants peace for them but he also wants it understood, this should not have happened at all because he should have had better treatment from the VA (Veteran's Administration), the government, which he sought repeatedly for three years before this.”

The Wisconsin State Hygiene Lab in Madison found in a blood sample from Gillett traces of marijuana and difluoroethane, which is a chemical found in cleaning spray called Dust-Off that people inhale to get high, according to the complaint.

Watson died a few days after the crash. His wife, Yuka Watson, also suffered broken ribs and a cut in the crash, according to the complaint.

Gillett faces seven charges, including first-degree reckless homicide and homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle while having prior intoxicant-related conviction, according to court records.

He pleaded not guilty by mental disease or defect to all counts May 4.

An order from Koss filed Dec. 1 ruled the evidence presented in court that an anxiety attack occurred and caused the crash was “purely speculative” and that if Gillett knew he was prone to anxiety attacks and if they were an issue, he should not have been driving.

The order denied Duquette the ability to use Gillett's anxiety attack, PTSD or any evidence relating to his mental health in his defense.
Duquette requested Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1 to stay the trial because the Nov. 29 appearance was only his second in-court appearance with Gillett, arguing he needed more time to prepare a defense. Duquette is Gillett's third defense attorney and first appeared with his client July 8, where he was given a trial date, he said.

Koss said he was “struggling with this being at the 11th hour” and said he should have seen earlier a request to reschedule the trial.
Duquette said after the Nov. 30 court appearance that the case became more complex as he dug through an estimated 1,500 pages of medical records.

Involved parties received a fax at 4:15 p.m. Friday from the court of appeals that said the circuit court proceedings were stayed because the appellate court wanted to take a “more thorough review of all these matters” before a trial would have started, Duquette said.

If the court of appeals does not take up the case, the jury trial will be back on the table, he added. If the court does rule to resolve the issue, Duquette said that would mean a lengthier appeal process.

The prosecution has 14 days to file its response to the appeal, Duquette said.

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