This award was created in 2021 to honor criminal defense lawyers who have secured acquittals in cases alleging felony sexual assault of either an adult or a child. (Specifically, any violation of Wis. Stats. 940.225(1), (2), or (3) or Wis. Stats. 948.02(1) or (2).)
The WACDL seeks to acknowledge and honor the particular combination of sensitivity, toughness, research, and trial advocacy skills necessary to achieve acquittals in these especially challenging cases. The laws surrounding sexual assault prosecutions are complicated and dynamic, and typically require attorneys that try these cases to develop specialized knowledge of medical evidence such as SANE results, DNA evidence, protocols regarding videotaped interviews with child witnesses, and, of course, how to effectively pierce rape shield.
In addition, traditional cross-examination techniques are often turned on their heads when handling witnesses that are young children or developmentally disabled, and the lawyers that are tasked with performing such cross-examinations must develop a wide range of tones and techniques to be effective in front of juries.
As we charge further into the 21st century and the era of #metoo, the social and political implications of being charged with or convicted of sex crimes is so devastating, and the prejudice against even the accusation is so strong that committed criminal defense attorneys handling these cases face a constant uphill battle. As such, we seek to celebrate the rare and remarkable achievement of a felony-level acquittal for these charges.
The award gets its’ name from three lawyers (Kathleen Stilling, Donna Kuchler, and Jessa Nicholson, respectively) that have devoted their careers to sensitive crime defenses and have achieved outstanding results, including notable acquittals, often in high-profile cases.
Nominations are open and will be referred to the directors of the district who can confirm the information and send it on to the WACDL Board of Directors to formally issue the award.