Our View: The system worked in the Schaffhausen trial
Now that the Aaron Schaffhausen trial is complete, we believe those associated with the trial in St. Croix County should be recognized.
This trial represented one of -- if not the most -- heinous crimes ever seen in western Wisconsin. We are still amazed that the trial and story of three young girls murdered in their homes by their father in broad daylight wasn't headlined on the national news every night. Much lesser tragedies have grabbed intense national attention in the past. Apparently it didn't happen in the right part of the country - East Coast, West Coast or Chicago.
We believe the jurors reached a good decision when they said that while they believed Schaffhausen, 35, suffers from mental illness, he knew what he was doing when he murdered his three daughters.
At any rate, all those involved with the trial deserve some recognition, Judge Howard Cameron, the various attorneys (including prosecuting attorney Gary Freyberg and defense attorney John Kucinski), county employees, the DA's office, the Sheriff's Department, witnesses and especially the jury. This event could have turned into a media circus, but a respectful decorum and courtroom atmosphere was maintained throughout.
For those involved, including the jury, this was a difficult situation. In many ways it would have probably been easier to determine guilt or innocence. Determining the mental state of a subject can be tricky business.
How could this man not be insane? For most people the crime is so unthinkable that everyone would question the man's sanity. On the other hand sanity is demonstrated when a person plans and carries out a heinous act; when a person seeks revenge (in this case following a divorce) and Schaffhausen demonstrated those abilities.
Most people think insanity pleas represent a person who is incapable of acting rationally and incapable of planning. Insanity, in many cases, would likely represent a spur of the moment event.
After the trial prosecutor Freyberg summed it up this way: "These were a brutal series of crimes...he (Schaffhausen) understood what he was doing. The goal he set for himself was revenge."
Everyone exposed to the realities of the trial also needs some time to heal. Everyone in the courtroom saw and heard gruesome details of an event that will have an impact on everyone involved.
The good news is, the system worked. Judge Cameron set sentencing for July 15 following a pre-sentence investigation. Schaffhausen faces life in prison on all three counts of murder. He will be held in St. Croix County Jail until sentencing.