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DNA testing holds up Montano case

James Francis Montano

A shortage of available DNA for testing is holding up 6th Judicial District court proceedings for a Bayfield, Wis., man charged in the death of his uncle.  

James Francis Montano, 32, is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree premeditated attempted murder and second-degree assault in the second degree. His uncle, Andrew Gokee, 57, of Sawyer, was shot April 21 and later died.

Public defender Nicole Bettendorf-Hopps gave a status update Friday, Sept. 14, to Judge Leslie Beiers at the Carlton County Courthouse. She is challenging the due process and the science of the testing on this case.

According to a criminal complaint, Montano arrived April 21 at his father Michael Montano's residence at 4020 Kari Road, Sawyer. While at the house, James Montano allegedly shot his uncle in the head and inflicted a superficial gunshot injury on Gokee's son, Hudson Gauthier, 38. Gokee later died from his injuries.

Bettendorf-Hopps explained that most of the evidence from the crime has been analyzed except for two gun casings. The DNA samples from the casings are very small and Bettendorf-Hopps is concerned the samples will be used up during the initial testing. If the samples are used up in the initial testing, there will not be DNA available for a defense expert to test. The other option is to have the defense expert observe the initial testing of the DNA.

Bettendorf-Hopps said she is waiting to find out if the tests need to use both of the DNA samples or if they just prefer to use both of the samples before the case proceeds.

Jeffrey Boucher quoted a past case that ran into a similar situation. He said case law is clear on how this type of situation should be handled.

DNA testing is highly technical, so the next court date will be a half-day to full day, depending on the number of experts called to explain the processes and reasoning.

The next court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 29 at the Carlton County Courthouse.