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A Wisconsin man's 1994 rape conviction was overturned in a Winnebago County Circuit Court Wednesday based on DNA testing pointing to another man. Wisconsin Innocence Project client Joseph Frey was convicted of a 1991 rape based on the victim's identification and sentenced to 102 years behind bars despite a lack of DNA linking him to the crime. New DNA tests requested by the Wisconsin Innocence Project matched convicted sex offender James E. Crawford, who committed additional sexual assaults after the 1991 crime. Crawford has since died.
The LaCrosse Tribune reported that at the hearing, Judge Daniel Bissett agreed that Frey's conviction must be vacated "in the interest of justice." Although the conviction was overturned, Frey will remain behind bars until prosecutors decide whether there will be a retrial.
Assistant District Attorney Adam Levin acknowledged that the new DNA test implicating Crawford who matched the description of the assailment was "significant."
In its brief, the Wisconsin Innocence Project sites improper destruction of physical evidence and improper eyewitness identification procedures for leading to Frey's wrongful conviction. After initial testing excluded Frey before his 1994 trials, all the physical evidence was reportedly destroyed. Simultaneous and repeated lineups with the same suspect were also shown to the witness who identified at least two other men before saying that Frey "looked similar" to her attacker.
Last month, Levin requested a Winnebago County Sheriff's investigation that revealed Crawford may have tried to confess prior to his death in 2008.
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Understand the causes of eyewitness identification.
An independent review of the New York City medical examiner's office suggests a management change, legislation in Minnesota attempts to require accreditation for crime labs, and Ohio law enforcement addresses a backlog of DNA cases. Here is the round up of news for the week:
An independent review found that recent problems at the New York City medical examiner's office should lead to a wide-ranging management change. After missing and mixing biological evidence in numerous cases, and the resignation of various staff, the review showed systemic problems dating back several years.
In Minnesota, the problems with a lack of protocols at the St. Paul crime lab spurred a bill that would require accreditation for crime labs throughout the state. The author, Senator Ron Latz, believes the bill will "prevent wrongful convictions and increase public confidence in the criminal justice system."
Due to numerous problems with management, evidence processing, and a DNA backlog, local law enforcement agencies in Ohio are no longer sending biological samples to the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab. Law enforcement officials still support the crime lab but feel the Ohio Bureau of Investigation crime lab can do a more effective job conducting DNA testing.
A New Zealand researcher is determining how the psychology of juries is impacted by expert forensic evidence and how that interaction affects the integrity of the justice system. The research will examine how juries deliberate conflicting interpretations of evidence given by prosecutor and defense experts.
Congratulations to Texas exoneree David Wiggins who quietly married his girlfriend Rhonda earlier this month in a private civil ceremony. Wiggins becomes the third Texas exoneree in as many months to tie the knot. Michael Morton was married in March and Randy Arledge followed suit in April.