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Former La Crosse County deputy found not guilty in fatal accident

The news swept through the community last week: at the conclusion of her widely publicized trial, the La Crosse County deputy sheriff was found not guilty of vehicular homicide.

She had faced the criminal charge after the fatal car accident in which her police cruiser last year ran a red light at Hwys. 35 and OT and struck a vehicle driven by a 16-year-old boy.

The La Crosse Tribune did extensive coverage of the legal proceedings leading up to the trial, the trial itself and the aftermath of the acquittal.

The paper said few involved in the case in any way cared to discuss it publicly, including prosecutors, witnesses, jurors, legal consultants or law enforcement professionals.

One person who was willing to discuss it was a Portage County Sheriff's officer who was involved in a similar case three years ago. He was charged with negligent homicide after he also went through a red light and struck a vehicle driven by a teenager.

The verdict in the La Crosse case came as a relief, he told the newspaper. He said he's happy for the former La Crosse deputy and her family, but at the same time, he said he wondered how the family of the young victim felt.

It's certainly not our place to speculate about the thoughts of the family members who lost a young loved one.

However, in similar cases in which there's an acquittal in a criminal case, families have pursued justice in civil courts with a wrongful death lawsuit. The burden of proof is different in a civil case than in a criminal case, and the means of justice shifts from possible prison sentences to financial compensation for damages.

Source: La Crosse Tribune: "Jurors, witnesses quiet after Stratman verdict," Anne Jungen, Nov. 12, 2011

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