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Wisconsin roundup: Court ruling eases admissibility of toxicology tests; broadband bill targets rural areas; 9 more state news stories

MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has made it easier to use toxicology test results against criminal defendants in court.

The justices ruled 5-2 Tuesday that toxicology tests are legally parts of autopsies, and therefore can be admitted as evidence without the person who wrote the test results having to testify. The court's five conservative justices upheld the conviction of 32-year-old Roderick Mattox, for providing the heroin that killed Samuel Lueck in Waukesha in 2013.

Mattox argued that admitting the tests violated his right to question the results' author during his trial. The ruling comes amid a split by appeals' judges on whether toxicology reports can be admitted as they're normally written several weeks after routine autopsies take place.

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Broadband bill would target underserved rural areas

MADISON — Republican lawmakers are circulating a bill to expand broadband service in underserved parts of the state.

The measure made public Tuesday is sponsored by Representative Romaine Quinn of Rice Lake and Senator Howard Marklein of Spring Green. It would allocate $15.5 million in grants for rural areas. Almost a quarter of Wisconsinites live in rural areas and around 40 percent do not have broadband, or high-speed internet access, at home.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal released last week included an additional $35 million for broadband, which includes the grants. A significant portion will go toward schools and educational institutions.

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Wisconsin shares 'Dose of Reality' campaign with Minnesota

ST. PAUL — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel shared his "Dose of Reality" media campaign with neighboring Minnesota, as the Gopher State joins the Badger State's fight against opioid abuse.

Schimel and Minnesota AG Lori Swanson held a news conference Monday in St. Paul, where they showed the Wisconsin program's video in which a parent could not wake her child who had died from opioid painkillers. Swanson says 336 people died from opioid and heroin abuse in 2015, six times as many as in 2000.

She has highlighted the overdose deaths since last spring, when pop star Prince died from painkiller abuse. Schimel says he hopes expanding the "Dose of Reality" campaign will reduce the stigma in which people like Prince have shied away from admitting addictions and getting help.

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Johnson blames disloyal staffers for Flynn resignation

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says it's clear that President Donald Trump has a bureaucracy that does not support his agenda — and Michael Flynn's resignation proves it.

On Fox News Tuesday, Johnson — a Republican who heads the Senate's Homeland Security panel — says Trump will "have to come to grips" with his staff. Johnson says it's troublesome that were leaks to the media about Flynn's contacts with Russia's ambassador before Trump took office — and Flynn admitted giving "incomplete information" about that to the White House.

Johnson says those types of leaks are "incredibly damaging" to the nation, but he did not say they were illegal. In a tweet Tuesday morning, Trump said the "real story" is "so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington," and he asked why they're happening.

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Madison officer remains a defendant, though city is not

MADISON — Matt Kenny is still scheduled to go on trial in 13 days as the only defendant in a federal lawsuit in the Madison police officer's shooting death of Tony Robinson.

District Judge James Peterson dismissed the city of Madison as a defendant on Monday, saying there's no evidence that the city's procedures and policies caused the death of the 19-year-old Robinson. However, the judge said no to clearing Kenny, saying there remains a dispute as to what happened in the stairwell of an apartment building in March of 2015.

Peterson said a jury will need to decide whether Kenny's use of lethal force was reasonable, even though the state said it was. The suit was filed by Robinson's mother, Andrea Irwin, who claimed her son's civil rights were violated in the incident in which officials said Kenny and a drug-affected Robinson struggled before the shooting.

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Two killed in Shawano County log-truck crash

LEOPOLIS — Shawano County sheriff's investigators are still looking into a crash that killed two people near Leopolis.

The victims were a 77-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman, both from Marion. Deputies say the man was driving west on a rural road when he collided with a log truck coming from the left on County Road G. The log truck was driven by a 57-year-old Bowler man, and he escaped injury. The crash happened Monday afternoon, and the victims' names were not immediately released.

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Wisconsinite joins legal fray in Trump refugee ban

MADISON — A Dane County resident from Syria has filed suit against President Donald Trump's immigration orders, claiming they've held up plans to gain asylum for his wife and young daughter.

The Summi Muslim's name was not disclosed in a federal lawsuit in Madison which calls the plaintiff "John Doe." According to the lawsuit, he was granted asylum last year after two military forces extorted and tortured him — and he was in the final stages of gaining asylum for his wife and 3-year-old girl when Trump issued his executive order banning Syrian refugees from the United States.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down the order, but there are reports that Trump's working on a new, similar executive order — and one of the plaintiff's lawyers says the man wants a permanent order to assure he can be reunited with his family. The U.S. Justice Department has refused comment on the case, which is the first in Wisconsin to challenge the Trump order.

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Walker budget makes most adults work to get homestead credit

MADISON — If Gov. Scott Walker has his way, most adults would have to work to be eligible for the state's long running Homestead tax credit.

Part of Walker's proposed state budget would make able bodied adults younger than 62 have jobs to claim the Homestead credit, which is designed to help with housing taxes for low income homeowners and renters. Seniors and the disabled would be exempt from the work mandate, which would take effect in 2018 if Walker's fellow Republicans in the Legislature go along with it.

For those who remain eligible, Walker would resume automatic increases in the Homestead credit to inflation — something the GOP cut out in 2011, after former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle approved it in 2009. Last year, almost 200,000 low income residents obtained $98 million in Homestead credits.

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Ice concerns reported as sturgeon spearing continues

FOND DU LAC — Part of Wisconsin's largest inland lake has unsafe ice at an especially bad time, during the spearing season for sturgeon on Lake Winnebago.

Fond du Lac County sheriff's deputies had rescue teams ready this past weekend in case any of the thousands of spearers were to drive through the ice — and a couple had their vehicles partially submerged. Sheriff's Capt. Ryan Waldschmidt said one man was rescued by a homeowner after his pickup was surrounded by open water on the lake — and social media had other photos of vehicles stuck in the ice and partially submerged. Conditions will not get better Tuesday on southern Lake Winnebago, with highs in the 40s expected for much of the southern part of the state.

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State's 12th snowmobile death reported in Clark County

SPENCER — A central Wisconsin man killed in a weekend snowmobile crash has been identified as 34-year-old Robert Kurz of Loyal.

Clark County sheriff's deputies say he was a passenger on a machine that left a trail east of Highway 98 near Spencer, about 15 miles northwest of Marshfield, and rolled after entering a wooded area. There was no immediate word on the driver's condition. The crash happened Sunday morning in the town of Sherman. It was the second snowmobile death in Clark County this winter, and the 12th in Wisconsin.

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Appeals court raises concerns about Dassey questioning

CHICAGO —Three federal appeals court judges in Chicago will decide this summer whether Brendan Dassey should have his conviction reinstated in the slaying of Teresa Halbach in Manitowoc County.

The appeals panel heard arguments Tuesday on the state's request to keep one of the subjects in the Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer" behind bars. The judges asked state lawyers whether prosecutors' questioning of Dassey amounted to a promise of leniency for Dassey, who was 16 when he confessed that both he and his uncle Steven Avery raped, shot, and burned Halbach in 2005 near Mishicot.

A federal magistrate ruled last summer that Dassey should get a new trial, after the TV documentary raised questions about his and Avery's guilt. A state attorney argued that Dassey was promised no benefits in exchange for his cooperation. But his appellate lawyer argued that questioners took advantage of Dassey's age and low IQ at the time.

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