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Firearms Expert Witness Testifies in Wisconsin Murder Trial

Last week, a Wisconsin Rapids, WI judge sentenced Joseph Reinwand to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murdering Dale Meister in 2008.  The trial concluded a six-year investigation and prosecution, and featured convincing expert testimony from a firearms analyst taking the stand for the prosecution.

Joseph Reinwand Convicted of First-Degree Murder

Joseph Reinwand was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide for the 2008 shooting of Dale Meister.  The two men were connected through Reinwand’s daughter, with whom Meister was embroiled in a bitter custody dispute over a daughter the two shared, and apparently had a contentious relationship prior to Meister’s death.  According to prosecutors, Reinwand visited Mesiter in March, 2008 with the premeditated intent to murder him, and did so by shooting him multiple times in the chest.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors called several witnesses, many of whom testified that Reinwand had threatened to kill Meister on several occasions and frequently argued with the father of his granddaughter.  Key among the witnesses against Reinwand was a firearms expert who testified to jurors that bullets extracted from Meister came from a gun that the defendant possessed at the time of the murder.

Firearms Expert Testifies for Prosecution

Recognizing the need for hard evidence to tie Reinwand to the murder weapon, prosecutors called William Newhouse, a firearms and tool markings expert who retired after a career working for the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.  Newhouse was first tasked with analyzing bullets taken from Meister’s body and a cartridge taken from his couch and comparing them to an unfired bullet that was recovered from Reinwand’s garbage during the investigation.  Newhouse testified to the jury that the bullets were identical.

Going further, Newhouse’s expert testimony connected the bullets from Meister and Reinwand’s garbage to a handgun that several witnesses had seen in the defendant’s possession prior to the murder.  According to Newhouse, the bullets had unique characteristics that could only have come from a Jennings handgun made between 1983 and 1985 – the same type of weapon that people had seen with Reinwand or in places where he had access.  Additionally, Newhouse was able to match a piece of a handgrip that was found in Reinwand’s truck with a Jennings handgun, and strengthen the evidence that the defendant had been connected to the weapon that killed Dale Meister.

Defense attorneys for Reinwand did not present an expert witness to counter the physical evidence against him, but did press Newhouse on cross-examination about the method he applied to connect a handgun fragment to the same Jennings model possessed by the defendant.

Wisconsin Man Sentenced to Life in Prison

Joseph Reinwand declined to take the stand to testify in his own defense, but throughout the trial defense attorneys questioned the validity of the prosecution’s witnesses against him.  Pointing out that the threats issued by Reinwand were vague and second hand, and reminding jurors that DNA evidence was not able to place the defendant at the scene with a high degree of certainty, Reinwand’s defense strategy was to undercut the strength of the evidence against him.

Upon conclusion of the trial, jurors took less than two hours to convict Reinwand, and Wood County Circuit Judge Greg Potter delivered a life sentence without possibility of parole only days after the guilty verdict was announced.  Reinwand, who is 55, requested a sentence review after 20 years, but with the weight of evidence pointing to a premeditated and ruthless shooting, Judge Potter denied the request in favor of a life sentence without further consideration.

Evidence uncovered during the investigation of Reinwand suggests that he may have had a hand in the 1984 shooting death of his former wife.  Prosecutors representing the county Reinwand lived in at the time of the 1984 death have filed a charge of first-degree murder in that case, and, despite the life sentence, it is likely a second murder trial will take place unless he pleads guilty.