A grieving Illinois family’s plea to amend a Wisconsin statute that allows voluntary intoxication as a defense in court for criminal liability will be heard during a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday in Madison.
Alisha Bromfield, a pregnant 21-year-old from Plainfield, Ill., was murdered by her friend Brian Cooper, 36, also of Plainfield, Aug. 19, 2012, at a Nasewaupee resort. The two were in Door County to attend his sister’s Aug. 18 wedding. After a night of heavy drinking, Cooper strangled Bromfield in their hotel room.
Cooper’s defense during the first trial in June was that the alcohol he drank during and after the wedding reception inhibited his ability to form intent. He has never denied killing Bromfield.
During Cooper’s trial he was found guilty of third-degree sexual assault for having sex with Bromfield after she died. The jury, brought in from Wood County, came to a stalemate at 10-2 in favor of a guilty verdict for the two counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
According to jury foreman Mark A. Hagen of Wisconsin Rapids, the main disagreement came over the meaning of a line in the jury instructions regarding intent: “If the defendant was so intoxicated that the defendant did not intend to kill Alisha Bromfield, you must find the defendant not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.”
Shortly after the conclusion of the first trial, Bromfield’s family and friends began campaigning to change Wisconsin Statute 939.42, which deals with intoxication as a defense that can be accepted in court for criminal liability. They launched the Alisha and Ava Bromfield Law Initiative Facebook page, started a www.change.orgpetition, and have traveled to Door County and Madison to collect signatures for petitions to send to various state representatives.
Assembly Bill 780, co-sponsored by Reps. Steve Nass, Garey Bies, Taylor August, André Jacque and Sen. Neal Kedzie, goes before the committee at 11 a.m. Thursday. If passed it would remove the wording dealing with voluntary intoxication as a defense.
This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to amend the statute. A similar amendment proposed in 2007 failed.
Mike Mikalsen, Nass’ chief of staff, feels Bromfield’s family and their supporters can give the Assembly bill what it did not have before: faces and a story.
The goal is to educate legislators about what happened in Door County, Mikalsen said.
Both Bies and Mikalsen said the bill may not move make it to the governor’s desk this legislative session.
“It’s a little late in the session ... but there is always a possibility,” Bies said.
It is not uncommon to bring a bill forward more than once.
“We’re optimistic in the sense that we can make the case,” Mikalsen said.
Bromfield’s mother, Sherry Anicich, is one of several people planning to speak at the hearing.
“I still have to write what I want to say, but I think I pretty much know,” Anicich said.
Anicich and others had hoped the amended statute could be applied retroactively to Cooper’s case. She found out last week that this could not be done.
“This really isn’t about her. It’s about him. They need to change this (statute) so another family doesn’t have to go through this,” she said.
Contact Samantha Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.