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Judge will decide if cameras will be allowed during Schaffhausen murder trial

Family members of the murdered Schaffhausen sisters were in court on Wednesday1 / 2
Aaron Schaffhausen showed no emotion during a hearing in court on Wednesday. He is accused of murdering his three young daughters.2 / 2

The father accused of killing his three young daughters in their River Falls home sat stone-faced and perfectly still at a two-hour hearing in St. Croix County Court on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Judge Howard Cameron heard a variety of motions filed by both the prosecution and the defense in the triple homicide and arson case against Schaffhausen.

Schaffhausen, 35, is charged with three counts of first degree homicide and one count of attempted arson in the deaths of girls in the home they shared with their mother on July 10.

Public defender John Kucinski asked Cameron to ban cameras and recording devices from all court proceedings. Currently one video camera and still photography without flash are allowed.

Kucinski pointed to the media coverage surrounding the Casey Anthony murder trial in Florida. He said the publicity surrounding the trial had an adverse effect on everyone associated with the case including the judge, the lawyers and the jurors.

He pointed specifically to an early television report by KARE 11 that erroneously reported that Schaffhausen had pleaded guilty to the murders. Even though it was not true, "it was already out there in front of everybody," Kucinski said.

State prosecutor Gary Freyberg said he did not object to Kucinski's request in an effort to protect the victims and the defendant's right to a fair trial.

Cameron said he would review the request and rule on it by next week. He said he wanted to allow sufficient time for media outlets to file their objections so as not to delay the start of the trial April 1.

Cameron ruled that the defense must advise the court by Dec. 14 if they intend to use "not guilty by reason of insanity" as a defense for Schaffhausen.

Cameron dismissed defense motions to drop the arson charge from the case and to keep 911 calls related to the case from being heard in court. Cameron said he will review videotapes of the Schaffhausen's arrest and booking, specifically at any statements made by the defendant during the process and will make his decision on whether they can be admitted as evidence by Dec. 3.

Issues surrounding jury selection, jury sequestration and a possible change of venue for the trial will be heard by Cameron at a hearing on Jan. 17.

Family members of the victims were escorted into and from the hearing by representatives of the court's Victim/Witness office.

Schaffhausen is being held in St. Croix County Jail on a $2 million cash bond. His daughters, Amara, 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecilia, 5, were found dead in their upstairs bedrooms from stab wounds. The youngest was also strangled according to the complaint. Schaffhausen is divorced from the girls' mother, Jessica, and was on an unannounced visit their home the day of the killings.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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