Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-923-8761

24 HOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT

Wrongfully convicted man set free after spending 16 years in WI prison

A man wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin due to several possible issues, including police protocols, eyewitness errors and poor defense, was recently freed.

A man who was wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin has been freed after serving nearly 17 years in prison, according to The Green Bay Press-Gazette. The man was convicted of sexual assault of a child based on questionable evidence, including investigative oversights and unreliable eyewitness testimony. Based on these issues, the man was recently granted a new trial. The district attorney’s office then decided not to retry the case, and the man was formally freed.

Questionable case and charges

In 1998, the man was charged with molesting a four-year-old girl who had contracted a venereal disease. The girl reportedly gave authorities various answers when asked to identify the perpetrator. The man was one of at least three people that the girl named at some point. Police records that the Wisconsin Innocent Project obtained show that the girl was confused about the alleged perpetrator’s identity. Unfortunately, those records weren’t included in the official court record during the man’s trial.

There are also indications that authorities overlooked evidence pointing to another suspect, the girl’s uncle. Authorities took the uncle’s word that he did not have the venereal disease that the girl contracted. However, after the accused man was convicted, tests revealed that the uncle did have the venereal disease. Furthermore, authorities overlooked the fact that the girl sometimes called the uncle “Mario,” which is also the wrongfully convicted man’s name.

Inadequate defense during the man’s trial could also have contributed to his wrongful conviction. For example, an expert on eyewitness testimony was supposed to testify on the inaccuracy of young eyewitnesses. However, jurors never heard this potentially decisive testimony.

Wrongful convictions and causes

This particular case serves as a reminder that many factors may play a role in wrongful convictions. According to the Innocence Project, many of the first 325 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing involved common variables. The following three issues contributed to the greatest number of wrongful convictions:

  • Eyewitness errors – 72 percent of the exonerations involved poor eyewitness identifications.
  • Poor or unproven forensics – unvalidated forensic science or improperly performed forensic work contributed to 47 percent of wrongful convictions.
  • False confessions – in 27 percent of wrongful convictions, the accused pled guilty, confessed or made self-incriminating remarks.

The Innocence Project also identifies government misconduct, testimony from informants and inadequate defense as frequent factors in wrongful convictions.

For many people who have been falsely convicted, establishing innocence may be difficult. DNA testing is considered definitive, but many cases do not involve any evidence that is eligible for DNA testing. For example, there was no DNA evidence to support the recently freed man’s assertions that he was innocent. This limitation makes guarding against common causes of wrongful convictions essential during criminal proceedings.

Anyone facing criminal charges, regardless of the nature of the charges, should consider speaking to a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to provide advice on guarding against unreliable evidence and presenting the case in an appropriate light.

Keywords: wrongful, conviction, eyewitness, testimony

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)