A Wisconsin Secure Program Facility inmate serving two life sentences for first-degree intentional homicide will be tried for attempted first-degree intentional homicide in Grant County Circuit Court beginning today.
Jury selection began at 8:30 a.m. for Charles E. Witzel Jr., 47, who is accused of trying to kill a fellow inmate at the Boscobel prison April 13, 2014.
Witzel pleaded not guilty to the charge July 31, according to court records. He faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted.
Witzel is accused of attempting to kill fellow inmate Arthur Johnson, fashioning a shank from a piece of a clipboard from the prison’s laundry room, then going to Johnson and attempting to stab Johnson in the eyes, requiring stitches in Johnson’s right hand and above his left eye.
According to the initial report, Johnson claims that Witzel is part of white supremacists and yelled “this is how we roll you (profanities and ethnic slurs).”
Witzel had stated that Johnson continually threatened himself, and others, including guards, while at the prison.
Witzel will be handling his own defense, after Grant County Circuit Judge Craig Day allowed him to take over the case March 26. In the case file Witzel had to file motions and requests by handwriting legal documents, including a request he made for one of his witnesses, Norris Pegues. Witzel felt that having him in the courtroom was better than having him give testimony via closed circuit television because he wanted jurors to be able to read Pegues’ body language to see if he was telling the truth or not, and he did not want Pegues to feel intimidated.
Witzel, formerly of Loganville, is serving two life sentences for killing two people he believed were having relationships with his ex-girlfriend.
Witzel pleaded no contest in March 2009 to first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon and first-degree reckless injury with a dangerous weapon after a shooting in Cross Plains that killed Craig A. Severson, 45, and injured Lisa A. Morgan, 27, Oct. 31, 2008.
Witzel was sentenced in Dane County Circuit Court to life imprisonment plus five years prison with no possibility of extended supervision on the homicide charge, and 15 years prison and 10 years extended supervision on the reckless injury charge.
Witzel then pleaded no contest in April 2009 to first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon and attempted first-degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon after a shooting in the Town of Mineral Point that killed Craig A. Finley, 37, and injured Finley’s brother, Casey, Nov. 6, 2008.
Witzel was sentenced in Iowa County Circuit Court to life imprisonment plus five years prison without eligibility for extended supervision on that intentional homicide charge, and 45 years in prison on the attempted homicide charge. A charge of driving a vehicle without owner consent was dismissed.
According to Dane County court records, Witzel shot Severson because Severson had been involved with Witzel’s ex-girlfriend during their 12-year-long relationship. Morgan was Severson’s fiancée.
Casey Finley told authorities Witzel shot the Finleys because Craig Finley was dating Witzel’s ex-girlfriend’s at the time, according to Iowa County court records.