Closing arguments got underway at around 9:30 this (Friday) morning in the trial of Bradley Wischmeier. The jury is currently deliberating.
The Prosecution got it’s first chance to summarize it’s case against Bradley Wischmeier, who is accused of operating a 2002 Ford Focus under the influence on April 17th, that then caught fire causing the accidental death of his wife Lisa Wischmeier. Jeremiah Geffe, Assistant Des Moines County Attorney walked the jury through the testimony and evidence as well as explained to the elements of the case the State had the burden to prove. Geffe told the jury the three elements were, that Bradley Wischmeier was operating the Vehicle, that he was intoxicated when he was operating the vehicle and it was the substantial reason that Lisa Wischmeier died in a cornfield off of Stoney Hollow Road north of Burlington. According to the Prosecution, the State had met the burden of proof and the Jury should find Wischmeier guilty of Homicide By Vehicle.
Defense Attorney James Beres then delivered a compelling closing, telling the jury there is no direct evidence that Bradley Wischmeier was intoxicated at the time of the fire. Further, Beres told the jury that the substantial cause of the fire was the car catching fire, more than likely caused by the catalytic converter igniting the dry corn stalks in the field. Beres claimed that that could have happened without intoxication. The other substantial cause according to Beres was the intoxication level of Lisa Wischmeier, who he contends was unable to get out of the car and was “dead-weight” when her husband tried to pull her from the car. Beres carefully explained to the jury where he felt there was more than reasonable doubt in the case as well as where he felt the state had failed to provide proof in the case. Beres continued to assert that the “symptoms” of intoxication that law enforcement touted throughout the trial was the result of Bradley Wischmeier having just watched his wife burn to death in a traffic accident.
The rebuttal from the state came from Christopher Scarborough. The Assistant County Attorney told the jury the conclusions that the defense had drawn were simply not applicable to this case. Scarbrough told the jury that the State had provided a number of witnesses to Bradley Wischmeier being impaired earlier in the day of April 17th. He also told the jury that besides the behavior, Investigator Adam Plein and the other Deputies on the scene of the fire had smelled alcohol on the defendant’s breath. That Wischmeier himself had admitted to drinking “Booze” to hospital staff and a Sheriff’s Deputy. Scarborough then chastised Attorney Beres for blaming Lisa Wischmeier and her intoxication for her own death. In a final move to make an impression on the jury, the lights lowered in the courtroom and a photo of the burned body of Lisa Wischmeier lying next to the burned-out car came up on the screen directly in front of the jury box.
The photo drew an immediate reaction from Bradley Wischmeier, his face became red and tears filled his eyes. The Attorneys at the defense table tried to quickly calm Wischmeier who was visibly agitated by the photograph being displayed on the screen. Family members of Wischmeier in the gallery reacted to the photo as well.
The Jury got the case at around 11:05 and began deliberations.