Prosecutor Fred Matestic appeared as innocuous as his ever-worn, green, elbow-patched corduroy jacket and school-instructor demeanor. Throughout most of the drama he revealed nothing of an ability to sting, paralyze, and kill.
No one expects partiality from oneâ€™s defined enemy in a courtroom; the roles are clear. Still, when Prosecutor Matestic told the jury the defendant had never raised issues of child abuse with anyone, and the defendant was therefore having everyone onâ€” a sick joke from a sick mindâ€” it was a deflating punch to the stomach. The kick to the groin came from Defense Attorney Martin Kohler himself. Kohler, like Matestic, knew that the defendant had complained, for years and on the record, about the abuseâ€” to relatives, to friends, to the police, to a social worker, to lawyers, to a judge at court hearings, to physicians.
Kohler listened intentely as Matestic landed blow after solid blow on his client. When his turn came, Kohler betrayed his client and kept truth a stranger to the jury; they would only know what they were told. Later, in justification for his actions, Kohler explained to his client, "I warned you the system could hurt you."
At this trial, it was Judge David Hansher, Prosecutor Fred Matestic and Defense Attorney Kohler on one side. The system never errs and the world runs by a script we know: A soft spoke, tender-looking, white librarian mother does not abuse her children.
That day, truth had its teeth kicked in, while Kohler and Matestic went to lunch together: Garlic bread, lasagna, and a fine Chianti.
(Shortly after this website went online I wrote to Matestic, informing him that he was portrayed in the book, TheSystem, and on this website. I demanded to know why a public prosecutor would feel so free to violate his oath, the people's trust and his duty. As with the other characters depicted here, silence serves as a false refuge, but unavoidably also as assent to the charges. To my only mild surprise, what I did get was the following remark on the Wisconsin Bar (wisbar.org) website: Atty. Fredric E. Matestic Resigned. No doubt, he will not be the last.)