DNA TEST FREES MAN IN RAPE

 Published on Wednesday, April 23, 1997
 © 1997 Madison Newspapers, Inc.

 Byline: By Mike Miller The Capital Times
 After serving five years behind bars and agonizing over the possibility of more time in prison, Anthony Hicks walked out of  the Dane County courthouse a free man today.

 Charges that he raped a woman in her Madison apartment in 1990 were dropped today on a motion of Deputy District  Attorney Judy Schwaemle. Hicks, 33, had been convicted on the charge in 1991 but a new trial had been ordered because  of new DNA evidence.

 Schwaemle said the latest in a series of DNA tests of two male pubic hairs found at the crime scene raised reasonable doubt  about Hicks' guilt.

 The prosecutor said she is not convinced Hicks is innocent. The evidence ``does not proclaim him innocent. It merely  introduces reasonable doubt,'' she said.

 Hicks, on the other hand, was adamant that he did not commit the crime. ``I refused to take a plea bargain for a crime I did  not commit,'' he said in an interview outside court. ``We were ready to go to trial and face the end results. I'm trying to put  my life back together. By the grace of God, I'm home. It's over.''

 After the case was dismissed, a tearful Hicks embraced many family members and friends. They included his wife, Denise  Hicks; his father and mother, Earl and Dorothy Hicks; two uncles, an aunt and his sister-in-law.

 Earl Hicks had no comment but Dorothy Hicks said she felt ``wonderful.''

 `I don't fault Ms. Schwaemle for doing her job. But to not apologize when you are wrong, God doesn't bless you for that.  She should have said `I'm sorry.' ''

 Schwaemle, in an interview, said she understood their feeling that way. ``There is a view he was wrongly convicted. I can't  conclude that. There remains substantial evidence that Mr. Hicks perpetrated the crime.''

 The DNA test, she said, ``was not the smoking gun of his innocence.''

 Hicks was convicted of the crime in 1991, in a case in which scientific examination of hairs found at the crime scene played a  crucial role and were bolstered by the victim's steadfast identification of Hicks as the man who raped her.

 Those hairs, which played such a crucial role in Hicks' conviction, also were crucial in the dismissal of charges against him.

 Under the type of scientific analysis of hair used at the time, a state crime lab analyst testified that four of the hairs found at the  scene were ``consistent with'' hair from Hicks, and that a hair found in Hicks' trousers ``could'' have come from the rape victim.

 Schwaemle used that evidence extensively in her closing arguments at trial and Hicks was convicted and sentenced by Dane  County Circuit Judge Robert Pekowsky to 19 years in prison.

 The stage was set for today's dismissal when lawyers began efforts to have DNA testing done on those hairs. The first  attempt, which was inconclusive, was initiated by Hicks' trial attorney, Willie Nunnery.

 Later tests showed, however, that at least one of the hairs could not have come from Hicks. The other four hairs were  unsuitable for testing at that time. That led the state Supreme Court to order a new trial in the case, and that trial was set to  begin May 27.

 Since that time DNA testing has advanced, and in further tests done at the Cellmark Laboratory in Maryland -- the same lab  that conducted tests in the O.J. Simpson case -- analysts determined the hair that was not from Hicks did come from a male.   The latest tests also found that a second hair contained DNA from both a male and a female, and it showed that the male DNA could not have come from Hicks but the female DNA could have come from the victim.

 Attorney Steve Hurley, who now represents Hicks, said that showed someone other than Hicks was the rapist.

 Hicks, who lived in the same apartment building as the victim, became a suspect when a police stenographer was looking at a composite photo of the rapist and thought it looked like Hicks, whom she had dealt with on a drunken driving charge.

 Hicks was subsequently put in a lineup and was positively identified by the victim as the assailant.

 That began his long, arduous journey through the judicial system -- a journey that ended today.

 Hicks has been out on bail since last July, but always under the cloud that a new trial could bring a new conviction. That cloud is now gone.


 
 
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