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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, December 09, 2023
Defense attorneys for Alec Cook asked a judge to separate charges into 11 different trials to avoid prejudicing a jury against their client.

Defense attorneys for Alec Cook asked a judge to separate charges into 11 different trials to avoid prejudicing a jury against their client.

Cook defense moves for 11 separate trials

Defense attorneys are seeking 11 separate trials for all charges brought against expelled UW-Madison student Alec Cook.

Chris Van Wagner and Jessa Nicholson Goetz filed a motion June 30 arguing that grouping the 11 sets of allegations into one trial—each brought by women claiming they were assaulted by Cook between September 2014 and October 2016—could create “astounding” juror prejudice against their client, the Cap Times reported.

“If jurors hear multiple accuser's accusations in one trial, they will be unable to sort out if there is enough evidence to convict on any one crime,” Van Wagner told The Daily Cardinal. He added that hearing multiple claims together could change their way of thinking.

“No doubt in our mind that if all of these cases are tried to the same jury at the same time there's no way [our client] is going to get a fair shake on any individual case,” Van Wagner said.

According to Wisconsin law, in order for charges to be tried together they must have similar character or be based on the same act, or series of acts, that constitute part of a common scheme.

The defense states that even though all allegations reportedly took place on or near the UW-Madison campus with students, the similarities are not enough.

The court filing noted that all accusers had different relationships with Cook prior to the alleged assaults, and evidence of interaction does not overlap between the cases. The filing argued that the common theme of Cook looking for a girlfriend in his interactions with the accusers is not enough to be considered part of a “scheme or plan” under the law.

“The notion that each woman did or didn't consent isn't a pattern. Each sexual encounter between two adults is different,” Van Wagner said.

Cook faces two separate cases since an 11th accuser came forward in June after the first case with 10 women was already under way. The Cap Times noted that prosecutors—the state Attorney General’s office and the Dane County District Attorney’s Office—had told the court they intended to ask to combine the cases.

According to the June 30 motion, defense attorneys anticipated that the prosecutors would attack their client's character as they did at a bail hearing by painting him as a “serial rapist and sexual predator.”

Prosecutors have until Aug. 1 to files responses to defense motions.

Update Aug. 1, 1:20 p.m.: This article was updated for clarity. The Daily Cardinal regrets any confusion caused by this mistake.

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