A Wisconsin man spent two decades in prison for a rape he did not commit.  Joseph Frey, now 53, was convicted and sentenced to 102-years in prison for an attack on a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student.  The woman was raped at knifepoint in her apartment in 1991.  Judge Daniel Bissett overturned Frey’s conviction after new DNA tests matched evidence from another crime scene, the rape of two sister, ages 12 and 13.  Those assaults happened after the student’s attack.

Frey was taken from state prison to Winnebago County Jail to await the prosecutors’ decision on retrying him.  He remained in prison in county jail for 2 months before prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the case saying there was “insufficient evidence” for a retrial.  Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, says Frey is receiving assistance from a transitional housing program.

“We were hoping that under the new testing we could upload it to match someone who was in the offender database and that is exactly what happened,” said Wisconsin Innocence Project Lawyer Tricia Bushnell. “That person was there in her bedroom and has no other reason to be there. They went and checked with the victim, they went and checked with the roommates, thus it solidifies the theory that he was the one that did it.”

The man whose DNA it is, is deceased.  The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Frey cannot afford medications he needs for a degenerative bone disease, blood clots, and other health ailments.  His predicament sadly, isn’t unusual.  State programs do not provide any provisions for social services for individuals who are deemed innocent (exoneration, overturned conviction, acquitted, etc).  State programs only have resources available to help those newly released after serving their terms.  If Frey is lucky, he will eventually be able to receive $25,000, the maximum compensation for innocent people wrongfully convicted in Wisconsin, as restitution for the 20 years he spent in prison incorrectly.  That is if the state of Wisconsin doesn’t fight his claim.

joseph frey before conviction        josephfreyexoneration

(Left:  Joseph Frey when he was arrested in the early 1990s.  Right:  Joseph Frey being released after spending 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.)

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