Convicted on 20 charges in murder, robbery
by JODIE DeJONGE Associated Press
James Oswald, accused of heading a father-and-son bank robbery team and shooting a police officer to death in a chase last year, was convicted on all 20 charges against him Monday.
The Circuit Court jury in Waukesha deliberated about three hours before returning the guilty verdict against Oswald, 50, whose 19-year-old son, Theodore, was convicted on 19 counts at an earlier trial.
The charges against both included first-degree intentional homicide, carrying a life prison term, in the shooting of Waukesha police Capt. James Lutz, 57, who was slain in a chase after a bank robbery April 28, 1994.
Lutz's widow, Diane Lutz, smiled slightly as the verdicts were read by Circuit Judge Lee S. Dreyfus Jr. in a courtroom packed with spectators.
"Now my life can begin," said Mrs. Lutz, a fixture in the courtroom for the trials and other hearings for both of the Oswalds.
James Oswald acted as his own defense attorney, and his courtroom antics included winking at Mrs. Lutz, complaining repeatedly about her front-row
seating arrangement and referring to her as "Madonna Lutz over there."
Mrs. Lutz reserved comment about the defendant until his sentencing hearing today, when he could receive as many as 740 years in prison. Oswald's son is scheduled for sentencing June 6.
"Obviously there is going to be an appeal," James Oswald said.
James Oswald maintained in closing arguments that Lutz was slain by gunfire of fellow officers.
Assistant District Attorney Lloyd Carter, in his closing arguments, called Oswald's explanation an "utter fantasy. … It isn't based on fact."
Carter reviewed some of the 500 pieces of evidence, included writings recovered after the Oswalds were arrested in which they outlined a method for attacking a pursuing officer.
Carter told jurors that exact method was used in the rapid-fire assault that killed Lutz as he sat in his car. Witnesses said Lutz was pursuing the Oswalds as bank robbery suspects when their car pulled over, he pulled up behind and they suddenly emerged and walked straight at his car, firing repeatedly into the vehicle.
Oswald, scooting around the front of the courtroom in a wheelchair and pointing to crime scene diagrams, told the jury the evidence against him was circumstantial.
"I may be a bad person. I may have evil thoughts," Oswald said. "But if you can't find me guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you must leave it to God to punish me."
He said prosecutors failed to prove who was responsible for Lutz's "gory dance of death" in his squad car. He asked jurors how they could know he and his son "weren't firing into a dead body."
Monday was the eighth straight day in court for the jury, which was selected in La Crosse County due to pretrial publicity here. The trial began April 24.
Testimony showed the Oswalds, armed and wearing masks, robbed a credit union in Waukesha Feb. 12, 1993, and another in Brookfield Dec. 30, 1993.
Authorities said that on April 28, 1994, the Oswalds robbed the Bank One branch in Wales, but a witness reported seeing their vehicle flee, prompting Lutz to give chase in Waukesha.
After Lutz was slain, the Oswalds fled, stole a vehicle at a printing shop and abandoned it in Pewaukee as police closed in, the criminal complaint said.
Judy Opat, 47, testified the Oswalds broke into her home by shooting out a patio door, then made her drive them in her van into gunfire at a police roadblock.
She leaped out with a shoulder wound just before the vehicle sped up and smashed into a tree.