DARLINGTON — The first of the two intentional homicide trials of Armin and Jeremy Wand in connection with the Sept. 7 Argyle fatal house fire is scheduled to begin Feb. 25.
Armin D. Wand III, 32, will have his trial first after a motion by Wand’s attorney, Guy Taylor, to separate the two trials. A hearing on other motions, including either moving the trial out of Lafayette County or bringing in a jury from outside the area, will be held Jan. 17 at 8:30 a.m.
The Wands face four counts of party to first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of party to attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and arson. Armin Wand faces an additional attempted first-degree intentional homicide charge.
The Wands appeared in Lafayette County Circuit Court before Green County Circuit Judge Thomas Vale Wednesday afternoon to enter pleas on their combined 15 charges. Armin Wand then made a second appearance Friday afternoon after a brief dispute with Taylor the previous day.
On each of the eight charges, Taylor said, “Your honor, the defense stands mute.” Vale entered not-guilty pleas on Armin Wand’s behalf.
On each of Jeremy Wand’s seven charges, public defender Frank Medina said, “Not guilty, your honor.”
Armin Wand’s trial was scheduled first because Taylor motioned for a speedy trial and because of Taylor’s motion to separate the two trials because of statements from Jeremy Wand about Armin in the criminal complaint.
Afterward, Taylor said the motion for a speedy trial was “just a tactical decision that the defense has arrived at.” He said there has been “an unusual amount of time since the arraignment” in September.
As for standing mute instead of pleading not guilty, he said, “that’s an old-style way of protecting all objections. It doesn’t really have a practical difference for a not-guilty plea.”
The Jan. 17 hearing will decide Taylor’s motion for a change of venue or bringing in a jury from outside Lafayette County, and the extent to which a jury will be sequestered.
Taylor said either was necessary because of “media scrutiny and public sentiment locally,” which makes an impartial jury “impossible to find within the confines of Lafayette County.”
Taylor’s motion claimed that “pretrial publicity in the entire Madison area media market has been so intense, inflammatory and unremitting that a fair and impartial jury may not be had in Lafayette County or in the entire media market.”
The motion cited stories about the Wands’ family background, “prayer vigils for the victims and details on the condition of Sharon Wand.” The motion included online and print copies of stories from the Darlington Republican Journal, the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, and WISC-TV and WKOW-TV in Madison.
The Jan. 17 hearing also will decide options for verdicts and jury instructions, as well as the number of potential jurors to be interviewed before jury selection.
Jeremy Wand is next scheduled to appear in court for a scheduling conference Feb. 20 at 1:30 p.m., five days before Armin Wand’s trial, scheduled to take one week, is set to begin.
Armin Wand’s additional attorney: Armin Wand was back in court Friday afternoon with Taylor for an unexpected hearing.
Taylor asked for the hearing for a “potential issue with my continued representation of Mr. Wand.”
“I understand you had some reservations and you initially wanted someone else assigned,” Vale asked Wand.
“We wasn’t getting along,” replied Wand slowly.
“Is there any reason you can articulate for why you submitted a request for substitute counsel?” asked Vale.
“No,” answered Wand.
When Vale asked Wand whether the issue with Taylor had been resolved, Wand said, “Yes,” by “bring[ing] in a different attorney.”
“There has been some conflict, but I believe it has been resolved,” said Taylor. “I think it was my overzealousness in pursuing a decision for a line of defense. The court knows I can be obnoxious at times, and I can be less so in the future.”
Vale ordered that the state Office of the Public Defender assign a cocounsel for Wand.
Armin and Jeremy Wand are in the Lafayette County Jail after bail was set at $1.4 million and $1.2 million, respectively. They face life sentences on the intentional homicide charges, 60 years in prison on the attempted homicide charges, and 40 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the arson charges if convicted.