Freed Wis. inmate gets homicide charge dismissed
MILWAUKEE — A decades-old homicide charge was dismissed Monday against a Wisconsin man who spent nearly two dozen years in prison before new forensic tests raised questions about the evidence used to convict him.
Robert Lee Stinson, 44, shook hands with his attorneys, then hugged several relatives who wiped tears from their eyes after the charge was formally dismissed. He was freed from prison earlier this year after a judge vacated his sentence of life in prison.
“I feel wonderful right now,” Stinson told The Associated Press. “I can’t express it in words. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Stinson, of Milwaukee, was convicted in the 1984 slaying of a 63-year-old Milwaukee woman, whose near-naked beaten and bloody body was found in an alley near her home with eight bite marks on her torso. His 1985 conviction was based in part on testimony from experts who said the bite marks matched the teeth of Stinson, then 21.
But newer tests, as well as DNA analysis of saliva found on the victim’s sweater, suggested no match to Stinson, who has always maintained his innocence.
A judge vacated his sentence in January, meaning the conviction and sentence were thrown out but the homicide charge remained. Milwaukee County prosecutors had six months to decide whether to retry Stinson or dismiss the charge.
Assistant district attorney, Norm Gahn, recommended the case be dismissed on Monday, saying a new trial wouldn’t be feasible. He cited a lack of available witnesses, destruction of critical evidence and problems associated with faded memories.
“If something resurfaces, the charge could be reissued,” Gahn said. “But as of right now we have no plans of reissuing charges.”
After the hearing, the soft-spoken Stinson, dressed in a bright yellow short-sleeve shirt and matching pants, posed for pictures with his relatives and lawyers. He said he has learned to put the bitterness of his wrongful conviction behind him.
“That just comes in the way of seeing life,” he said.
The new tests on the evidence were conducted at the urging of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison law students and professors who work to overturn wrongful convictions. Stinson is the 12th Wisconsin person whose sentence was overturned after the group intervened.