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Judge rules some Wand interviews invalid
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MONROE - A judge ruled Wednesday that agents' coercive techniques invalidate as evidence some interviews Armin Wand III granted them in the days after he allegedly set his Argyle home on fire to kill his family and collect on their life insurance.

Hours of questioning from the day after the fire, including his apparent confession to the crime, won't be admissible as evidence before a jury when Wand goes to trial later this month. The Sept. 7 fire killed three of his four young children and badly burned his pregnant wife, Sharon Wand.

Judge Thomas Vale is also allowing Wand's wife to testify about recent details of their relationship. A court brief filed last month by the state alleges Wand abused her physically and sexually in the months leading up to the fire.

She filed last month for a divorce from Wand, 33.

He goes to trial in Darlington starting Saturday, Feb. 23, before a jury from Marathon County. The outside jury is being brought in for the Lafayette County case after Wand's defense counsel successfully argued a local jury would be prejudiced. Jury selection is Feb. 22 in Wausau.

Wand faces four homicide charges for his three boys who died in the fire and the unborn baby his wife later lost. He's also charged with the attempted homicide of his wife and their 2-year-old daughter.

His brother, Jeremy Wand, 18, is charged with helping set the fire, but a trial is not yet set in that case. Both brothers are being held in jail on bonds of more than $1 million each.

During a hearing held in Monroe Wednesday afternoon, the judge and Armin Wand's prosecutors and defense attorneys spent hours tying up loose ends and discussing their final motions before the trial.

Defense attorneys Guy Taylor and Jason Daane filed a brief last week asking the court to throw out two full days of interviews, Sept. 8 and 9.

Agents made impermissible promises of leniency to Wand on Sept. 8, they said. At one point, for example, an agent told Wand he was looking at three murder charges "unless you start telling us what happened."

The attorneys wrote that Wand was also "emotionally compromised" on Sept. 8 while agents interviewed him at a hospital in Madison, "mere feet away from the burn ward where his wife barely clung to life, with the deaths of his three young children fresh on his mind."

Wand has a below-average IQ of 67, according to a psychologist who testified before the court in January. This, along with sleep deprivation and other physical stressors, put Wand in a compromised state during the interviews, his attorneys argued.

Vale agreed that agents used coercive, provocative language with Wand on Sept. 8.

"Why make statements at all if not to put pressure on the individual?" Vale said.

But interviews from the next day can still be used as evidence, he ruled, since Wand was speaking freely, voluntarily and after he had been read his Miranda rights.

Vale acknowledged that Wand's IQ may be low, but he agreed with prosecutors that it doesn't appear to affect Wand's understanding of legal procedures or his ability to stand trial.

Even the doctor who tested Wand's IQ said Wand's score of 67 wasn't "particularly informative and is not the whole picture," according to a brief filed by the state.

Prosecutors wrote, "While the defendant is a lifelong stutterer, he can be understood and himself stated that the stutter does not affect his thinking or how he functions. He considers himself 'somewhat smart.'"

As evidence of Wand's intelligence, prosecutor Roy Korte pointed to Wand's handling of finances. Wand knew about the family finances "down to the penny," Korte said.