Testimony begins for former Oshkosh West student accused of attempted homicide
OSHKOSH – The trial for a former Oshkosh West High School student accused of stabbing a school resource officer in December 2019 has begun, with the defense unable to present part of their case.
Grant Fuhrman, 20, is charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide for the 2019 stabbing of Officer Michael Wissink. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison.
During the remainder of the trial, which is scheduled to last three weeks, the prosecution aims to prove that Fuhrman acted with intent to kill Wissink. In Wisconsin law, "intent to kill" means Fuhrman either meant to cause the death of Wissink, or was aware that his behavior was "practically certain" to result in Wissink's death — and that Fuhrman would have killed Wissink if not for the intervention of someone else or another outside factor.
Fuhrman's defense attorneys Corey Mehlos and Tim Casper argue that Fuhrman did not try to kill Wissink. Since 2021, they've been seeking to pursue an involuntary intoxication defense, arguing that Fuhrman's high dosage of Adderall, which he had a lowered tolerance for due to taking it infrequently, caused him to not be in his right mind at the time of the attack. However, it's unclear how much testimony about Fuhrman's medication can be brought up at trial; Judge Daniel Bissett has repeatedly denied the admission of the involuntary intoxication defense. According to court records, on Monday the Wisconsin Court of Appeals denied a petition filed by Fuhrman's attorneys to appeal Bissett's order.
Investigators say on the morning of Dec. 3, 2019, Fuhrman, then a 16-year-old junior at the high school, walked into Wissink's office during the start of second period and asked the officer to look something up on his computer. While Wissink's back was turned, Fuhrman attacked Wissink with a barbecue fork he brought from home. Wissink fired his gun in self-defense, shooting Fuhrman in the chest and himself in the arm.
The trial started Monday with a daylong jury selection process, during which a 15-person jury was selected out of a pool of around 90 people. On Tuesday, attorneys presented their opening statements, then the prosecution presented its first six witnesses.
In their opening statements, both Assistant District Attorney Tracy Paider and Casper discussed the events of Dec. 3, 2019. Paider used the metaphor of a shark circling its unsuspecting prey to describe Fuhrman's actions the morning of the attack, as he avoided going to his second period class and instead walked around the school hallways, repeatedly peeking into Wissink's office and waiting for the officer to be alone.
As the school resource officer, Wissink was not only at Oshkosh West to help enforce the law, but also acted as a friendly face at the school and someone who students could come to if need be, Paider said. He sometimes rode a bike around the hallways and had fruit in his office for students.
"He wanted the kids to know his office was a safe space," Paider said.
On the morning of the attack, after Assistant Principal Aaron Herm left Wissink's office, where the two had been having a brief meeting regarding vandalism in the school bathrooms, Furhman walked into Wissink's office, closed the door and repeatedly stabbed the officer when his back was turned.
Had Wissink not fired his weapon, Paider argued, Fuhrman would have killed him.
In the defense's opening statements, Casper presented a different picture. He described the attack as "a half-baked scheme" Fuhrman came up with in the middle of a sleepless night. Fuhrman was dealing with multiple stressors, including a breakup with his girlfriend, the recent death of his grandfather and having a difficult time with his Adderall medication, Casper said. He was engaging in social media conversations with peers all night and hardly got any sleep.
Investigators found searches on Fuhrman's phone included "how to stab somebody and not kill them," Casper said. The weapon he chose to bring to school from home also did not reflect an intent to cause the most damage possible; multiple steak knives were in Fuhrman's home's kitchen, and Fuhrman had two pocket knives in his bedroom. Out of those, he chose a two-pronged serving fork, Casper said.
Additionally, Casper said, in the "melee" that ensued in Wissink's small office between a 16-year-old kid and a "very strong" adult man, it's not clear how Wissink received each of his injuries. And neither Wissink nor the first officer arriving to help on scene had their body cameras turned on initially, Casper pointed out.
"Had (Wissink) used his body camera, I don't think we'd be here today," Casper said.
After opening arguments, the prosecution called its first witnesses to testify. Among them was Ken Levine, an Oshkosh West teacher who ran to Wissink's office after hearing the gunshots and provided his own belt as a tourniquet for Wissink's arm wound; Dr. Mark Westfall, an emergency physician at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Neenah who helped care for Wissink's injuries; and Officer Joseph Gogo, who in December 2019 was the school resource officer at Oshkosh North High School and was the first officer to respond to Wissink's calls for help on the radio.
Westfall testified that Wissink's laceration injuries to his neck and gunshot wound to his wrist were potentially life-threatening. During cross-examination, Mehlos suggested Westfall might have a broad definition of life-threatening. Further, Mehlos pointed out that Westfall did not know what caused Wissink's neck injury.
During cross-examination of Gogo's testimony, Mehlos pointed out that Gogo did not turn his body camera on until after his initial reaction of arriving on scene. Mehlos also presented Gogo's body camera footage as evidence that officers may have unnecessarily moved parts of the crime scene while attending to Wissink's and Fuhrman's medical needs.
The trial may continue for three weeks, or it may end sooner. The defense has not yet decided if Fuhrman will testify.
Decisions about what testimony relating to Adderall medication and Fuhrman's state of mind will be allowed will be addressed as they come up during the trial, Bissett said.
RELATED:Trial for former Oshkosh West student charged with stabbing school resource officer set to start Monday
Contact Kelli Arseneau at (920) 213-3721 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli.