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Staton Cleared In Shooting Case

Jury Acquits Madison Lawyer

Wisconsin State Journal, Friday, June 11, 1999
By Brenda Ingersoll Police reporter

Madison attorney Wayne Staton was acquitted by a jury Thursday of all charges in a shooting at his home of a woman with whom he had been drinking.

The five women and seven men deliberated just under six hours before telling Dane Circuit Court Judge Patrick Fiedler at 6:12 p.m. they'd reached a verdict.

Staton, 66, had been charged with attempted first-degree homicide and first-degree reckless injury, both with a dangerous weapon.

DeeAnn Foust , 54, survived wounds received March 8, 1998, to the abdomen, right shoulder and back of the head at Staton's town of Madison duplex.

Staton and his attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, contended she was shot while Staton wrestled the gun away from her. They said she drunkenly pointed it at him in a quarrel over her attempts to buy a car from Staton's tenant.

Foust, whose civil lawsuit against Staton is pending, was not in court Thursday. She and prosecutor John Burr contended Staton shot her in drunken anger. "There was no struggle. It is not supported by any, any of the evidence,'' Burr argued.

But jurors agreed with Van Wagner, who told them all pieces of physical evidence "indisputably support his innocence, his arrogance, his intoxication, his mouth that works before his brain goes on.''

Jurors during deliberations sent several questions to the judge, one of which suggested they wondered if they could find Staton guilty of reckless injury by use of a firearm simply because the gun was readily available to Foust.

Does use of a firearm include "loading the firearm, leaving it in plain view, drinking heavily with the potentially suicidal DeeAnn Foust in close proximity to the loaded firearm?'' they asked, "or does `use' relate only to how the firearm was used between 5:30 and 6 p.m.?''

The judge replied that it applied only to that half hour, when the shooting occurred.

"I feel justice was done. I think Chris did a helluva job,'' Staton said later. He retained his composure when the verdicts were read, while Van Wagner bowed his head, suppressing an exultant grin. Staton patted Van Wagner's cheek, as if to soothe him, then peered over his glasses at departing jurors.

In the hallway, he said the shooting and all that ensued took a toll. "It's been the worst 15 months of my life,'' he said, adding that he and some of his buddies intended immediately to gather at his home for a celebration.

And he plans to continue keeping for protection the .38-caliber, snub-nosed revolver used in the shooting, but said, "I will lock that gun up tighter than a drum.''

"We are not just happy," Chris Van Wagner said. "We are relieved."

Wisconsin State Journal approved reprint

Related Topics:
Reckless Homicide | First Degree Reckless Injury | Murder | Homicide