OSHKOSH (AP) - A Wisconsin man who spent two decades in prison for rape has had his conviction overturned.
Joseph Frey, 53, received a 102-year sentence in 1994 for an attack three years prior on a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student. The woman was sexually assaulted at knifepoint after her apartment was broken into.
On Wednesday, Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Bissett overturned Frey's conviction after new DNA tests matched evidence from the crime scene to a man convicted of sexually assaulting two sisters, ages 12 and 13, in Fond du Lac. Those assaults happened after the attack on the UW-Oshkosh student. The man has since died.
Assistant District Attorney Adam Levin told the Wisconsin State Journal that the new evidence, including the DNA test and witness interviews, was similar to what was used to convict Frey in 1994. That old evidence included a jailhouse informant, the victim's identification of Frey in a "live in-person lineup," prior sexual assault charges and DNA results from the victim's bedsheet that excluded Frey as the source.
Frey's overturned conviction resulted from a federally funded effort by the Innocence Project to seek out state inmates whose claims of innocence could hinge on DNA testing. The Innocent Project said in an October motion that a former Oshkosh police detective improperly destroyed some physical evidence before Frey's trial.
"In addition to the improper destruction of evidence," the motion said, "all of the police documents, including police reports, inventory reports, submission and transmittal forms, testing requests and results and chains of custody, were destroyed by the (Oshkosh Police Department). As a result, it is unclear what evidence was originally collected, identified for testing, or remained after destruction."
The Innocence Project also noted the victim had identified at least two other men before saying that Frey "looked similar" to the attacker.
Frey is still at the Winnebago County Jail on $100,000 bail.
Levin said a new trial for Frey depends on DNA testing results from a Brown County case which he was involved. He also noted that unless new evidence emerges implicating Frey, "likely this case will be dismissed, and this defendant will go free."
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