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Jurors who acquitted Vernon Hershberger explain decision

Hershberger and family listen to jurors, continue "business as usual"

ROCK SPRINGS, Wis. - Two jurors who acquitted raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger of three of four charges last month say they grew upset with prosecutors during the trial.

"It was frustrating because it seemed like a waste of everybody's time," said Michele Hopp of Merrimac about prosecutors' objections that delayed the proceedings.

The Sauk County jury was quick and peaceful in its deliberations, said another juror, Kelly Winecke of Rock Springs.

Hershberger and his family sat in an audience of about 35 people Tuesday night and listened to Hopp and Winecke detail their feelings about the trial. The crowd applauded when Hershberger entered the Rock Springs Library.

Winecke said the trial demonstrated to her that lawmakers should change state law to allow more "food freedom," including selling raw milk.

"I think there needs to be some change," she said, adding, "There needs to be guidelines for safety."

Four jurors, including Hopp, wrote letters to Sauk County Judge Guy Reynolds, who decided Hershberger's sentence, asking for leniency on the one conviction. Five of the jurors came to the sentencing hearing earlier in June.

"I became angry because I didn't think we rendered a correct verdict (on that count)," Hopp said, referencing the jury's decision to convict Hershberger for breaking seals and continuing to sell raw milk products after the state ordered him to stop. "I think we did the best we could at the time but, knowing the information I know now, yes, I regret (the decision)."

Prosecutors said Hershberger was running an unlicensed retail shop for his raw milk products. The jurors said their panel put a lot of weight on the membership system Hershberger used to make people part-owners in the farm, saying that wasn't a true retail shop.

The two jurors denied that they held a small-town bias against the state's case.

"I went in with an open mind, and I went in with the evidence that was placed in front of me," Winecke said.

Reynolds fined Hershberger $1,000 and ordered him to pay more than $500 in court costs.

Hershberger has said he will continue with business as usual after the trial.

His defense attorney, Glenn Reynolds, said that as many as 100 people have signed up to become new farm members since the trial. Jurors have even inquired about it, he said.

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