- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The family of a Wisconsin man who died soon after he was denied compensation for a wrongful conviction plans to press his case again before the Wisconsin Claims Board this week.

Forest Shomberg spent six years in prison for the 2002 sexual assault of a University of Wisconsin-Madison student before his conviction was overturned in 2009 on the basis of new DNA testing and other evidence. He sought $102,500 in compensation, but the board voted unanimously to deny his claim in December 2012.

Shomberg petitioned the Eau Claire circuit court to review the board’s decision, which the court reversed in June 2013. Byron Lichstein, Shomberg’s former defense attorney and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said the circuit court ruling douses the state’s argument that Shomberg shouldn’t be paid because he hadn’t been found innocent.

The court definitely said he is innocent. He has proven his innocence by clear and convincing evidence so he” should be paid for the time wrongfully spent in prison, Lichstein said.

The circuit court decision included strong language against the Claims Board’s vote against paying Shomberg. The ruling said the board provided “no analysis of the facts or rationale for its decision.”

Robert Kaiser, assistant Dane County district attorney, still maintains that he thinks Shomberg is guilty, but he said his office doesn’t have time to continue the court battle against him.

“I’ve investigated his guilt and I am convinced that he is guilty,” Kaiser said.

Shomberg had a lengthy criminal history before a judge convicted him of sexual assault in 2003. The court of appeals and Wisconsin Supreme Court both upheld the convictions in 2004 and 2006.

But DNA testing in 2007 and problems with the way Shomberg was identified by the victim showed Shomberg “has proven by clear and convincing evidence that he is innocent,” circuit court judge Michael A. Schumacher wrote in his decision.

Shomberg was found dead in a parked car in Madison two months after the circuit court decision.

Annette Bruner, Shomberg’s mother, declined through her attorney to comment before the Claims Board ruled in the new case.

In 2011, Shomberg was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. He told a judge he was thinking about killing himself when he fired a test shot into the front lawn and changed his mind.

Shomberg was sentenced to a year in prison and two years of supervised release in that case, court documents show.

His release was revoked in April 2013 after he violated conditions of his supervised release, and a judge ordered Shomberg to serve four more months in jail.

Shomberg was found dead in a parked car in Madison 11 days after his release from jail and only weeks before his case was scheduled to be heard before the Claims Board in September last year. The board rescheduled that hearing until Wednesday.

Shomberg had asked for the state maximum $25,000 for his wrongful conviction and $77,500 for legal fees. An attorney for his family will restate his case at the hearing.

The board’s agenda showed no one for the state planned to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

“My position and certainly the family’s position is based on the court order, Mr. Shomberg, and now his estate, is entitled to some compensation,” said Nathan Otis, an attorney for Shomberg’s family.


Follow Taylor W. Anderson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TaylorWAnderson .



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