Jaren Kuester, 31, of Milwaukee, the man accused of killing three Lafayette County residents was declared competent to stand trial during a competency hearing on Monday afternoon, July 1.
Judge C. William Foust made his decision based off of a report prepared by Dr. Michael Hammer from the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.
“I have read Dr. Hammer’s report and he does conclude that Mr. Kuester is competent to proceed,” said Foust.
During court proceedings on Monday, Guy Taylor, Kuester’s attorney stated that the defense also wanted to submit a special plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The state and the defense both said that they will have reports from examiners available by the middle of August.
Foust stated that he has the authority to appoint up to three examiners but said, “I guess at the moment I’m not inclined to do that to Lafayette County” and instead said he will wait to see the reports from the two examiners hired by the defense and the state.
After court concluded on Monday, Taylor explained that the difference between the question of competency and the special plea is that competency is regarding whether or not the defendant is able to proceed to trial and aid in their own defense in the here and now of the present while an insanity plea looks at the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime.
The court is looking at the week of October 14 for a possible trial date, even though the defense had submitted a motion for a speedy trial and that date is beyond the timeline the defense would have preferred.
“I’ve discussed with my client that date and the speedy trial demand that we’ve filed and we can accept October 14 as a trial date,” said Taylor.
Regarding the date of October 14, Kuester himself said “I would have liked it sooner but if that’s the best you guys can do then so be it.”
The county that the trial jury would come from was also discussed Monday and it was determined that jurors should come from an area out of Lafayette County due to the fact that the victims were prominent members of the community and also outside of the Madison area media market, which has been heavily covering the case.
The northern part of the state and the Green Bay area were mentioned as potential areas, although the actual county is yet to be determined.
The contents of the competency evaluation discussed were also ordered sealed by the court on Monday, until the time of trial after a request from District Attorney Kate Findley, who said the grounds for her request were that there is information in the report that has not been made public as of this point and that she thought it was a necessary thing to do. Taylor concurred with Findley’s statements.
Kuester has been charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the deaths of Gary Thoreson, 70, his wife, Chloe Thoreson, 66, and his brother Dean Thoreson, 76. Kuester also faces charges of burglary and automobile theft in connection with the case.
If convicted, Kuester will face mandatory life sentences on the homicide charges, 12 ½ years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine for the burglary charge and a six year imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for the motor vehicle charge.