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Wisconsin Man Falsely Imprisoned For 23 Years Seeks Restitution

In a follow-up to our post earlier this week, it seems that Wisconsin's efforts to update its DNA database are paying off - especially for the wrongfully accused.

In 2009, Robert Lee Stinson was released from prison after serving 23 years for a crime he didn't commit. He was convicted in 1984 for the murder of a 63-year-old woman who was his neighbor in Milwaukee. The only evidence used to convict Stinson for this violent crime was a set of bite marks on the victim which were falsely matched to him.

Stinson's case was re-examined in 2009 and the DNA on the victim's body was matched to another sample on file in the database. When questioned by police, the man with the matching DNA sample confessed to murdering the elderly woman.

When Stinson was charged with the murder, he was only 22 years old. Because the murder victim was a frail elderly woman, it is likely that public outrage played a role in forcing a hasty verdict. Stinson thinks that he became an easy target and that influence from public opinion pressured the jurors to use him as a scapegoat.

Stinson must now work hard to start over. Though he cannot regain the 23 years he lost in prison, he is seeking compensation from the state. Stinson is requesting $115,000 in compensation from the state - $5000 for each year he spent in prison. This is the maximum amount he can seek because Wisconsin places limits on the amount of money it will compensate to a victim of false imprisonment.

Even the best criminal defense attorneys have a difficult time fighting a case against the influence of public opinion. But as we said in our previous post, DNA provides a strong piece of evidence. Thankfully, updating Wisconsin's DNA database was a giant leap in the right direction to restore justice to those who have been wrongly accused.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal online, "Attorney Seeks $115,000 From State For Man Cleared By DNA Evidence," Dee J. Hall, 09 December 2010

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