Evidence thrown out in former bishop's fatal crash case - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Evidence thrown out in former bishop's fatal crash case

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County judge refuses to allow evidence of a former Lutheran bishop's failed, sobriety testing after a 2013, fatal Sun Prairie crash.

Former clergyman Bruce Burnside faces trial on homicide by drunken driving, hit-and-run and other charges, in the April 7, 2013 death of 52-year old jogger Maureen Mengelt.

Judge Nicholas McNamara ruled Friday a Sun Prairie police officer lacked sufficient suspicion of drunk driving by Burnside and should not have required sobriety testing. McNamara says there was no odor of alcohol, no slurred speech, no stumbling, and Burnside offered a plausible explanation the crash was due to inattention, not drinking. The officer encountered Burnside at a gas station about a quarter-mile from the collision scene.

But the OWI homicide charge against Burnside, 60,  can go forward, as McNamara decided Burnside's blood alcohol result of .12 could be used at trial, in accordance with the state's implied consent law. That law says someone obtaining a driver's license consents to blood testing, if a traffic violation and crash takes place and someone is greatly injured, or killed. The law is being challenged in a separate case before a state appellate court.

Prosecutors will be unable to use Sun Prairie police videotape of Burnside failing portions of the sobriety testing.

Mengelt's husband, Kevin Mengelt says he had hoped Burnside would have abandoned his defense, admitted guilt, and brought closure to the case of Mengelt's wife's death, on Good Friday.

"I understand there are legal challenges, but there's also moral correctness, being stand up, and he's chosen not to do so," Mengelt says.

"I hope some day he does show some remorse for his actions."

Burnside's trial is scheduled for next month.

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