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Larry Dunn, Jr.

Other Wisconsin Homicide Exonerations
In the early morning hours of May 10, 2011, shortly before closing time at Peg and Lou’s Bar & Grill in Racine, Wisconsin, patrons found the body of 37-year-old Andrew Schuckman lying on a concrete patio behind the bar.

Hours later, Racine police arrested 32-year-old Larry Dunn Jr. and 23-year-old Michael Crochet and accused them of causing Schuckman’s death.

As it sometimes occurs when a tavern is the focal point of an alleged crime, the events of the night leading up to the discovery of Schuckman’s body were not described similarly by all participants.

Dunn and Crochet were from Louisiana and had come north on Sunday, May 8, to spend a few weeks working for the asphalt company owned by Crochet’s uncle, Fred Tenneson. They were rained out on Monday, May 9, so they could not work. They decided to go to Peg and Lou’s to get chicken wings —as did most of the bar’s patrons on Mondays. Later, most of those who were present marked the time of events by whether they occurred before or after 9 p.m., after which no more wings were served.

Nearly a year later, on April 30, 2012, Dunn went to trial in Racine County Circuit Court. He was charged with felony murder, theft from a corpse, and misdemeanor battery.

The prosecution claimed that during an altercation in the parking lot of the bar, Dunn, who was accompanied by Crochet, struck Schuckman in the head, causing him to fall backward onto the pavement, fracturing his skull. Dunn was accused of stealing Schuckman’s cell phone.

Three friends who were sitting at the bar to eat wings and watch a basketball playoff game testified that Schuckman came into the bar, was very drunk, and tried to wedge himself into their group. Two of them, Sean McMillion and Curtis Dawkins, were Black. Dawkins, during his interview with police, said that Schuckman was “falling off his chair,” and when he and his friends asked him to back away, Schuckman referred to them with a racial slur.

Dawkins testified that the bartender, Art Kuemin, intervened and steered Schuckman to the other side of the bar, which was where Dunn, Crochet, and Tenneson were sitting.

Kuemin testified that Schuckman wanted a drink but had no cash, only credit cards. Since the bar didn’t take credit cards, Kuemin, who recognized Schuckman from prior visits, poured him a drink and said he could pay for it later. Kuemin said he anticipated that Schuckman would use the ATM in the bar to get cash.

At some point, Schuckman exchanged words with Dunn, Crochet, and Tenneson. He also spilled the drink that Kuemin had given him. At that point, Kuemin decided that Schuckman had to leave and he escorted him out the front door to the parking lot.

Dunn had gone out to get cigarettes from his truck and Crochet had followed him. What happened next became the basis for their arrests. Minutes later, according to Dawkins, Dunn came back into the bar and told Kuemin that he had “open-handed” Schuckman. Dunn said Kuemin should check on Schuckman because he had fallen to the pavement.

Twenty to 30 minutes passed. During that interval, Dunn went back out and returned to again suggest that Kuemin check on Schuckman.

Dawkins testified that he went out as well because he had a new car parked close to the bar and he wanted to make sure nothing had happened to it. He said he saw Kuemin help Schuckman stand up and move to the back of the bar where there was a grassy area with horseshoe pits, some barbeque grills, and lawn chairs. Dawkins testified, “I know the guy was breathing. He was fine as far as I could see.”

Sometime before midnight, Dunn, Crochet, and Tenneson left and drove to a motel where they were spending the night.

Meanwhile, Ryan Street, who was the third member of the trio with McMillion and Dawkins, spotted Schuckman on the ground as Street was leaving to go home, according to Dawkins. Dawkins said Street was getting in his car and called Dawkins to say Schuckman was on the ground. Street “told us that we should probably go check on him,” Dawkins said.

“I figured that he was just sleeping it off or whatever,” Dawkins said. However, he did check on Schuckman and found him lying face-up on a concrete patio between a dumpster and the back of the building. His car keys were inches from his hand. “I immediately noticed that he had blood on his mouth and on…his ears and his head,” Dawkins testified. “I…could tell his body was pretty lifeless.” At that point, McMillion came out. Dawkins told him to summon Kuemin.

When Kuemin came out, he discovered Schuckman had no pulse and called 911.

Street testified that when Dunn came into the bar after the confrontation with Schuckman, Dunn said that Schuckman “went to swing” at Crochet and that Dunn “hit him with an open hand to help protect” Crochet.

Kuemin admitted that he had been drinking and smoking marijuana that night. He said that when he first went out to check on Schuckman, “he was sitting up…he was on his butt and just sitting there.”

Kuemin said, “There’s no physical marks [on Schuckman] or anything like that. He was in—for the most part—in the condition I brought him out there in. I escorted him to the back area….There was a chair in the grass, so I set him next to the chair.”

Kuemin admitted that he first told police that Schuckman walked to the back. However, he testified that he half-carried, half-dragged Schuckman to the grassy area.

Dr. Lynda Biedrzycki, the medical examiner for neighboring Waukesha County, testified that she conducted an autopsy on Schuckman’s body. She said he had a traumatic brain injury and sustained at least five separate "points of impact" to account for his head injuries. The most severe injury was a laceration to the back of the head and the skull fracture. She said that Schuckman had a blood alcohol contact of .298—more than three times the limit for drunk driving.

Dr. Biedrzycki testified that Schuckman sustained fatal “contre-coup” injuries to the brain. She said those injuries are caused when the skull strikes an “unyielding surface or object.” The movement of the brain inside the enclosed space of the skull resulted in fractures to the orbital plates, as well as subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages in the brain.

Dr. Biedrzycki testified that the skull fracture was consistent with Schuckman’s head striking the pavement. She testified that the brain injuries associated with this impact were a "substantial factor" in causing his death. Dr. Biedrzycki testified that such injuries would not necessarily cause "instantaneous" death, nor would they necessarily have prevented Schuckman from communicating or moving. She also testified that there were abrasions on Schuckman’s back that could indicate that he had been dragged.

Police testified that they contacted Tenneson that morning and he reported that Dunn and Crochet were at a Walmart buying supplies for work. Both were arrested in the parking lot after emerging from the store.

Joseph Spaulding, a Racine police investigator, testified that a search of their motel room turned up two cell phones. A search of the outside area of the motel turned up shattered pieces of a cell phone—the same kind that Schuckman had and that had not been recovered at the bar.

The prosecution introduced cell phone records showing that in the early morning hours, one call and two text messages had been sent to Dunn’s fiancée from Schuckman’s phone. The prosecution also presented evidence that DNA testing on Crochet’s jeans revealed Schuckman’s blood. DNA testing on Dunn’s pants revealed Dunn’s DNA and another unknown person’s DNA. Bart Naugle, a senior DNA analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Justice crime laboratory said that Schuckman could not be excluded as the unknown person.

Dunn testified that he slapped Schuckman because Schuckman was going to take a swing at Crochet. Dunn said that Crochet, although he had been an amateur boxer, was particularly vulnerable. “He was climbing out of a jacuzzi and fell on his head and had a tumor the size of a golf ball removed,” Dunn testified. After the surgery, which resulted in a plate being put in his head, Crochet began suffering from occasional seizures. Dunn said Crochet’s parents had asked him to remain close to Crochet “because they know a friend of mine’s got epilepsy. And they keep me around working with him because they know if he goes into a seizure, I kind of know how to handle it and make sure he’s okay until help gets there.”

Dunn said that he was playing pool with Tenneson when Crochet went out to a rear porch of the bar that was a designated smoking area. There, Crochet and Schuckman began exchanging words. “[T]here was a heated exchange of words, so I kind of stuck my head out there, and that was the first...I seen Mr. Andrew,” Dunn said.

“I knew Mikey [Crochet] was intoxicated because he was drinking pretty heavily because he didn’t have to drive, and he was hanging out with his uncle who he hadn’t seen since the winter months, and I know he’s got a bit of a temper,” Dunn said. He told the jury he got Crochet to return to the bar and that was the end of things.

However, Schuckman came over and “was being kind of aggressive toward Mikey again,” Dunn said. “I kind of stepped in between…and put [Schuckman] in a bear hug and brought him to the corner of the bar and passed him off to Art the bartender.”

Dunn said he then went out to his truck to get cigarettes. He said that by the time he returned to the bar, Schuckman was outside. Dunn said he did not know that Kuemin had ejected him from the bar. Dunn said that Schuckman seemed “a little less agitated.”

“And I kind of told him, you know, hey, I’m sorry for handling you like that, you now, but my friend has a plate in his head,” Dunn said. Schuckman “just kept walking up on me,” Dunn recalled. “[A]nd that’s when Mike tried to come out to take his medicine in the truck….for his seizures.”

Dunn said Crochet had his back turned and was getting his medicine when Schuckman “realized it was Mike, he got kind of agitated again…and he raised his fist balled up over his head. And I don’t know if he was coming at me or if he was coming at Mike, but I slapped him…with an open left hand.”

Dunn said he went inside and told Kuemin what had happened. When Kuemin did not immediately respond, Dunn said he went back out and “put my finger under his nose to see if he was breathing, make sure he was okay, and he was actually snoring.”

At some point, Dunn said that Kuemin went outside and said that he had things under control, and to “go ahead and go back to the bar.” Dunn said he resumed playing pool and they left about an hour or 90 minutes later.

Dunn said that when he got to the motel, he was going to call his fiancée, but his cell phone battery was dead. He said he picked up Crochet’s phone and called and texted her to say they were going to bed. “I now know…that it was the victim’s phone evidently,” Dunn said. He denied taking the phone and he denied smashing it.

Dunn admitted that when first questioned by police, he said that Crochet had slapped Schuckman. He decided to tell the truth—that he had slapped Schuckman—because “it wouldn’t have been fair—it’s my friend—for somebody to get in trouble for something they didn’t do.”

During closing argument, the prosecutor pointed to the medical testimony to argue that Schuckman had hit his head in the parking lot after being slapped and had died just a few hours later from the injuries sustained in that fall.

On May 3, 2012, the jury convicted Dunn of felony murder, theft from a corpse, and misdemeanor battery. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In October 2012, the prosecution dismissed felony murder and theft charges against Crochet. He pled guilty to a charge of aiding a felon and misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to time served.

By September 2012, Dunn was represented by professor Gregory Wiercioch and students involved in Legal Assistance to Incarcerated People, an appeals clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School. On May 16, 2014, the legal team filed a motion for post-conviction relief seeking a new trial, claiming that Dunn’s trial defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call a medical expert at the trial.

A hearing was held in February 2015. During the hearing, Dr. Peter J. Stephens, a pathology expert, testified that the injuries Schuckman sustained other than those associated with the skull fracture were not lethal; that Schuckman would have begun bleeding immediately from the laceration to the back of his head; that he most likely sustained the laceration on the concrete patio where his body was found; and that he died within seconds to minutes after sustaining it. Wiercioch and his students also noted that 11 days before Dunn’s trial, the prosecutor, Randy Schneider, informed Dunn’s defense attorney, Travis Schwantes, of favorable reports from two experts consulted by Crochet’s defense attorney.

According to Schneider, one expert, Dr. Michael M. Baden, concluded that Schuckman suffered only non-fatal injuries after he was struck in the face and fell in the parking lot. Dr. Baden concluded that Schuckman died from the injuries he sustained when he fell over backwards on the concrete patio. Dr. Baden relied in part on the absence of blood in the parking lot and the blood flow patterns on Schuckman's face indicating that the bleeding occurred as he lay on the concrete patio. Dr. Baden noted that Schuckman's 0.298 BAC level showed that he was "severely intoxicated" when he fell.

The other expert, T. Paulette Sutton, a blood pattern analyst, concluded that Schuckman was not actively bleeding in the parking lot; that he was never upright after sustaining the laceration to the back of his head; and that he remained on his back while blood leaked from his nose and mouth. In addition, the baseball cap that Schuckman was wearing when Dunn slapped him had no blood on it. The cap had been recovered from a garbage can near the patio. There was no explanation for how it got there.

The defense presented the reports from Baden and Sutton, as well as a report from Dr. Christopher C. Luzzio, a neurologist and biomechanical engineer. Dr. Luzzio concluded that a man of Schuckman's height and weight would generate sufficient velocity and impact force falling backwards onto concrete to fracture the back of his skull. Dr. Luzzio also noted that Schuckman’s acute intoxication likely contributed to his death by causing depressed respiration and loss of airway support.

The prosecution called Dr. Biedrzycki, the medical examiner who conducted Schuckman’s autopsy. She testified that no one asked her at the trial where Schuckman sustained the skull fracture. She said that it would not surprise her if Schuckman’s head wound did not bleed immediately. She acknowledged that she did not measure the depth of the laceration during the autopsy and that it would have been helpful to have a depth measurement. She also said that nothing in her autopsy report precluded a finding that Schuckman sustained the laceration and skull fracture on the concrete patio.

Schwantes testified and claimed that his defense was premised on his belief that Biedrzycki was going to testify that Schuckman was slapped, fell down and died. Because Kuemin claimed that Schuckman was talking after the slap, Schwantes believed that raised the possibility that some other blow had been inflicted by someone other than Dunn.

Within an hour of receiving the exculpatory information from Schneider, Schwantes dismissed it. In an email to Schneider, Schwantes said:

“Our theory of defense has always been that Mr. Dunn slapped Mr. Schuckman in self-defense, that he didn't die immediately (because people heard him talking/mumbling/grumbling after hitting the parking lot), and that the medical examiner will say he died immediately; therefore, there had to be a second time that the head hit the ground after Mr. Dunn's slap that caused the death. I believe that the testimony of the medical examiner combined with the testimony of bartender Kuemin supports that there had to be another hit, irrespective of what [Crochet’s] pathologist expert says. Also, I've never been interested in statements/testimony of any so-called blood spatter expert.”

Schwantes said prior to Dunn’s trial, he had consulted with Dr. Robert Corliss, a forensic pathologist at the University of Wisconsin. Schwantes said he understood Corliss concluded from a review of the autopsy report that Schuckman’s death from such an injury would have been instantaneous. Schwantes said that he did not call Corliss as a witness because he felt “very strongly” that if he could get information through cross-examination of Dr. Biedrzycki, it was better than calling his own witnesses.

On June 19, 2015, Judge Wayne Marik denied the motion for post-conviction relief. While noting that the motion presented "some troubling issues" that "were extremely difficult to resolve,” the judge concluded that Dunn did not suffer any harm because of the defense failure to adequately investigate whether Dunn caused the skull fracture.

Dunn appealed, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the trial court denial. In February 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Dunn’s petition for review.

In November 2018, Wiercioch and his students filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that Schwantes had provided an inadequate legal defense. In December 2019, U.S. District Court Judge William Griesbach granted the petition and ordered Dunn’s convictions vacated.

Judge Griesbach noted that Schwantes “assumed he knew how Dr. Biedrzycki would testify without interviewing her before trial. Counsel intended to establish through cross-examination that Dr. Biedrzycki believed Schuckman’s death was instantaneous, which was inconsistent with the bartender’s testimony that he had talked to Schuckman after the altercation and escorted him to a patio area behind the bar.”

In an 18-page ruling, the judge said, “If trial counsel intended to elicit crucial evidence from Dr. Biedrzycki through cross-examination, he should have interviewed her before trial and ensured that she would testify consistently with counsel’s theory of defense. Failing that, he should have had his own expert prepared to testify in order to provide the foundation upon which his primary defense was to rest.”

“Given the unusual facts of this case, the need for expert testimony, such as that of Dr. Stephens and Dr. Luzzio, to assist in Dunn’s defense was apparent,” Judge Griesbach ruled. “Having misread Dr. Biedrzycki’s report and incorrectly assumed her testimony would support his theory of defense, Attorney Schwantes failed to recognize the need for such testimony until it was too late. While the jury may have reached the same conclusion even with such evidence, the fact that no such evidence was offered, even though available, substantially undermines one’s confidence in the result.”

On March 13, 2020, Dunn was released while the ruling was appealed.

On November 24, 2020, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Griesbach’s decision. The court held that Schwantes was “poorly informed and based his strategic decisions on a complete misunderstanding of a key piece of evidence—namely, the medical examiner’s opinion on the immediacy of death.”

On January 12, 2022, the prosecution dismissed all of the charges against Dunn.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/27/2022
Last Updated: 1/27/2022
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Theft, Misdemeanor
Reported Crime Date:2011
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No