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Prosecution wins motion on Schaffhausen mental health records

Aaron Schaffhausen

The prosecution will have access to all records relative to Aaron Schaffhausen's insanity plea following a judge's ruling in St. Croix County Circuit Court Thursday morning.

During a one hour, 15 minute-hearing Jan. 31, Judge Howard W. Cameron granted a motion by Assistant Attorney General Gary Freyberg requesting disclosure of Schaffhausen's mental health treatment records and other relevant materials.

Schaffhausen is charged in the deaths of his three young daughters last summer in their River Falls home. Public Defender John Kucinski entered a not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect (NGI) plea on behalf of his client Jan. 17 following a court order granting the action.

"I expect cooperation with the court order for there will be consequences if not," Cameron said.

Cameron said the "Court has the authority to make a level playing field so that nobody comes in at the last minute with surprises."

A three-week trial has been scheduled to start April 1.

Cameron earlier denied a motion by Kucinski for a change of venue. The defense filed a motion to reconsider the change and the judge denied it again Thursday.

"We don't give enough credit to juries in St. Croix County can be fair and impartial," Cameron said.

Freyberg raised a question about a future ruling on sequestering jurors for the trial. I'm not in favor of sequestration," said Cameron. "You can plan on the answer being... No!"

The bulk of the hearing centered on releasing the mental health records with Kucinski and Freyberg going over applicable statues in great detail.

Kucinski argued that the prosecution, "wants our work product (experts' opinions) so they can rebut."

"There should be reciprocal independent reports exchanged at the same time," he said.

Freyberg said that his written motion "meets and defeats everything Kucinski argued."

During the proceedings arguments between the prosecution and defense got somewhat spirited prompting Cameron to say, "No snipping, it's not allowed."

With an NGI plea, the prosecution will have to first prove that the Schaffhausen committed the crimes charged against him. If successful, the defense will then have to prove he was mentally deficient at the time.

Schaffhausen, 35, Minot, N.D., is charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in deaths of daughters Amara 11, Sophie, 8, and Cecilia, 5, and one count of attempted arson.

At 3:45 p.m. July 10, River Falls Police were called to 2790 Morningside Ave., in the northeast corner of the city.

Police found the three children, each in their own bed with blankets covering their bodies and necklines. An investigator smelled raw gasoline in the basement flowing from a tipped over container, the criminal complaint said.

An autopsy report from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's office said Amara and Sophie died from sharp force injuries to the right side of their necks. Cecilia died from a sharp force injury to the neck and strangulation.

Schaffhausen is being held in the St. Croix County Jail on $2 million cash bond under suicide watch. He appeared at the hearing in orange jail garb.

Heavy security was in effect for the proceedings. A number of sheriff's deputies were stationed around the courtroom and outside and all spectators passed through a metal dictator on their way in.