It was a tense day Thursday in the Lake County courtroom, for a man who had pleaded guilty to killing his fiancée. Law enforcement quickly surrounded Joseph Schmitz following his outburst as the judge ruled whether Schmitz could withdraw that guilty plea. KELOLAND News spoke to Schmitz as he left the courtroom, and later by phone, as he vows to appeal Thursday’s ruling.
Schmitz was originally charged with murder for the shooting death of Corina Booth at their home near Lake Madison back in 2016. In January, Schmitz pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and agreed to a 15-year prison sentence. But Thursday, Schmitz testified he was so groggy from prescription medications and a lack of sleep that he has no recollection of entering that plea, and that he never would have pleaded guilty if he had been clear-headed. But the judge didn’t buy Schmitz’s story and the plea will stand.
Joseph Schmitz was still agitated following his courtroom outburst as deputies forced him into the elevator on his way back to jail.
Perry Groten: Do you have anything to say?
“Yeah, I’m supposed to meet with my attorneys. I’m supposed to meet with my attorneys. I’ll meet you anywhere for an interview. Look at this, a travesty,” Schmitz said.
Then just a couple of hours later, Schmitz called our newsroom to talk about the incident in the hallway.
“I wanted to speak to you and they obviously wouldn’t allow me, they surrounded me and like I’m whatever, as you saw they shoved me into an elevator, I was just trying to get an opportunity to speak to you there,” Schmitz said.
During the hearing, Schmitz interrupted the judge saying he wanted to make a statement. That’s when courtroom security surrounded him.
“This whole thing that happened today was an absolute farce, that’s all I can say about it, there’s evidence to the contrary all across the board, that’s what I wanted to bring up today, I was not allowed to,” Schmitz said.
On the witness stand, Schmitz testified that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because he had taken medications for diabetes, anxiety and pain just hours before entering the plea. In handing down his decision, Judge Pat Pardy said he saw no signs of Schmitz being impaired the day he stood in front of the bench and entered his plea that January day.
“I don’t know how he can make a rendering like that. He wasn’t in my mind or my body that day,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz says he shot and killed Corina Booth in self-defense. Schmidt testified that he always intended that his case go to trial, so that he could have his day in court
Now that Schmitz’s guilty plea will remain in place, the judge will sentence him next week. But Schmitz says he’ll appeal the ruling.