/ Articles / Lussier murder appeal claims constitutional right ‘violated’

Lussier murder appeal claims constitutional right ‘violated’

February 21, 2020 by Abigail Bostwick

One man convicted of murder in Iron County claims his rights were violated when the judge went straight from jury trial to sentencing, according to Wisconsin Court of Appeals documents. 

Joseph Lussier, 28, formerly of the Lakeland area and currently serving life without parole at Green Bay Correctional, was found guilty before the late Judge Patrick Madden by a 12-person jury in August 2018 of the beating and shooting death of Wayne Valliere Jr., 25, Lac du Flambeau. 

His trial attorney, Craig Haukaas, Ashland, withdrew from the case and the State of Wisconsin State Public Defender Appellate Division appointed public defender Timothy Provis of Port Washington in 2018. 

Also found guilty of first degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse at the same five-day trial was Richard Allen, 29, formerly of the Lakeland area, now at Boscubel State Prison.

“Mr. Lussier’s basic right to present a defense as guaranteed by the six amendment, the due process clause … was violated when the court refused to allow him to present evidence at the sentencing,” Provis noted in his appellant brief. “It was an erroneous exercise of discretion to prohibit Mr. Lussier from presenting evidence at his sentencing.” 

When Madden opted to go straight to sentencing of both Lussier and Allen after the verdict, Haukaas objected on Lussier’s behalf and requested a separate, later sentencing date “… so he could present evidence on Mr. Lussier’s behalf,” Provis added. Allen’s defender, James Lex, also objected. Madden denied those objections, stating he was fully informed of all the circumstances and facts to make his ruling. 

Lussier and Allen were both given opportunities to speak on their behalf prior to Madden issuing their sentence. Allen made a longer statement while Lussier said, “Give me what I got comin’. I won’t scream,” court documents state.

Madden cited Allen and Lussier and the co-defendants’ drug use as a factor leading to the habitual crimes, adding the murder was “egregious” and showed “disrespect” to kill and a man and leave him in the woods. 

State objects to appeal

In response to the appeal document, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Aaron O’Neil filed a brief indicating, “This court should conclude that Lussier forfeited his constitutional claim and that he has failed to prove that the court committed reversible error … Lussier never argued to the circuit court that it violated his right to present a defense, so he forfeited that claim. He also is not entitled to relief because the right to present a defense does not apply to sentencing.”

Lussier’s claims also lack merit because he has not explained what additional information he would have presented, O’Neil writes. 

No family or friends made statements on Lussier’s behalf before Madden gave his ruling.

“Lussier was present and had counsel,” O’Neil noted. “The court allowed him to allocute, which he declined to do … Lussier was allowed to rebut the state’s sentencing argument with one of his own. And he was also given the chance to present witnesses to support that argument, though he did not have any.”

Since Lussier has not argued the court relied on false information, he has not proven the court violated his rights, O’Neil added. 

The appeal is awaiting assignment of a judge to make a decision on the next step. 

The murder

Valliere was missing for 10 days before investigators were led — after several failed attempts — to where his body had been hidden down on a remote dirt road outside of Mercer. 

Also charged in the crime were Evan Oungst, 30, Arbor Vitae; Curtis Wolfe, 28, Lac du Flambeau; and James Lussier, 21, Arbor Vitae. All came to plea agreements with state prosecutors over the last two years and have been sentenced to various prison and extended supervision terms. 

Abigail Bostwick may be reached at [email protected].

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