Legal experts breakdown the Chad Chritton verdict - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Legal experts breakdown the Chad Chritton verdict


MADISON (WKOW)-- Friday night jury members announced a verdict in the three week long trial for Chad Chritton. They found him guilty of felony child neglect, not guilty of misdemeanor child neglect and mistrial on four other counts.

Chritton is accused of keeping his daughter locked in the basement with no food or a bathroom.

For many people the verdict brings more questions than answers. 27 News spoke to veteran attorneys in Madison in order to get an expert opinion on what happened and what will happen in the case.

"A result like this is exceedingly rare," says Madison attorney Christopher Van Wagner, who has followed the case since it began.

Van Wagner says we can only speculate on the jury's motivations to find Chritton guilty on a felony child neglect count, but not the misdemeanor.

"The felony child neglect was premised on one set of facts and the misdemeanor charge was premised on another," Van Wagner explains. "They obviously concluded that some aspect of the misdemeanor was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

Madison attorney Tim Verhoff says another option could be that the jury decided it was only appropriate to convict Chritton of one count of child neglect and not "double-dip" on charges.

He says the jury members also could've issued those verdicts as a compromise. However, until we hear directly from the jury members we can only speculate their motivation.

As for the four undecided counts, false imprisonment, child abuse, reckless endangerment, and child neglect causing mental harm,  the District Attorney's Office could re-try Chritton. Legal experts say they'll most likely wait to until after Chritton's wife and step son's cases are finished.

"The mother is going to go to trial. That's going to allow the state to put on its evidence again and this time put it on in a more concise, abbreviated and organized and straightforward fashion," Wagner says.

Legal experts originally expected Chritton's case to have a significant impact on the outcome of his wife Melinda Drabek-Chritton's case. She's facing the same charges as her husband, but with four counts left undecided legal experts think the influence will be minimal.

The trial for Chritton's wife will begin April 8th. The step son won't appear in court until June.


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