Man convicted in cold case murder wins one appeal in drug case, loses another

Dennis Brantner appears in Fond du Lac County court for his sentencing, March 1, 2018.
Dennis Brantner appears in Fond du Lac County court for his sentencing, March 1, 2018. (Image courtesy WITI-TV)

MADISON (WLUK) – The man convicted of killing Berit Beck in 1990 won one appeal Tuesday but lost another related to prescription drugs found on him when he was arrested.

Dennis Brantner is serving a 10-year prison for Beck’s killing in Fond du Lac. He was arrested in Kenosha in 2015, but upon arrival at the Fond du Lac County jail, officers found 35 20-milligram oxycodone pills and two 5-milligram oxycodone pills. He did not have a prescription for either.

Brantner was charged and convicted of two counts – one for each size of pill. His appeal argued that the pills should be considered together and there be just one count. The Court of Appeals ruled the drugs would have required different prescriptions because of the different dosages.

The justices ruled the charges filed don’t distinguish based on the size, and ruled in Brantner’s favor:

“Because our statutes proscribe possession of pills without regard to the amount of oxycodone they might contain, there is no legal distinction between possessing a pill containing 20mg of oxycodone as opposed to one containing only 5mg of oxycodone. That, however, is the only difference between Counts 1 and 3,” the court ruled. “We must therefore conclude that the offenses described in Counts 1 and 3 are identical in law.”

The high court sent that part of the case back to the Fond du Lac County judge for resentencing.

Also, Brantner’s appeal argued he should have been charged in Kenosha County instead of Fond du Lac because that’s where he was taken into custody. The appeals court ruled he knew he was being taken to Fond du Lac, and could have disclosed his possession while in Kenosha County. Furthermore, he still had possession of the pills in Fond du Lac.

The justices rejected Brantner’s argument:

“Mr. Brantner did not lose possession of the drugs in his boot upon his arrest in Kenosha County. And because he still possessed the drugs in Fond du Lac County, venue there was proper,” the court wrote. “We conclude the evidence was such that the jury could determine that Mr. Brantner possessed the pills in Fond du Lac County beyond a reasonable doubt, which made venue in that county proper.”

Brantner is currently serving his sentence at the Fox Lake Correctional Institution, state records show.