A 17-year-old De Pere boy who died of a heroin overdose last year committed suicide and was not a homicide victim, a defense lawyer argued Friday.
Casey Gogos, 19, of Green Bay, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide for providing the heroin that killed 17-year-old Ryan Rockstroh on Oct. 27, 2008. Rockstroh died six days after returning home from a Minnesota drug rehab facility.
Attorney Jeff Jazgar requested access to Rockstroh's medical and psychological records and plans to offer a defense hinging on the premise that Rockstroh intended to end his own life. Jazgar said his client cannot be held responsible for reckless homicide for another person's intentional act.
"We believe Mr. Rockstroh committed suicide," Jazgar said.
Brown County Assistant District Attorney Wendy Lemkuil argued that Rockstroh's intentions are irrelevant to the case because the charges hinge solely on Gogos' actions and the ultimate outcome. She acknowledged that no one forced Rockstroh to take the drugs.
"This is not a legal defense," Lenkuil told the court. "This is slanderous. This is inappropriate and prejudicial to the jury."
Jazgar said the structure of his defense will ride on whether the court allows access to the medical records. He noted that there is a text message in the case that could be interpreted to bolster his suicide theory.
Brown County Medical Examiner Al Klimek ruled Rockstroh's death an accidental overdose by recreational use of heroin.
Brown County Circuit Court Judge William Atkinson asked Lemkuil to file a brief supporting her invalid defense arguments and said he expects to rule on the issue at a hearing Monday. If Atkinson opts to grant access to the records, it will likely mean the jury trial — set for Wednesday — would be delayed.
If convicted on the reckless homicide charge and two companion bail-jumping charges, Gogos faces up to 52 years in prison. He remains jailed in lieu of $75,000.
By Andy Nelesen
September 20, 2009
Greenbay Press Gazette