Davonn Robinson of Milwaukee spent more than four years in prison on false charges that he sexually abused two children. Now, thanks to the work of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Robinson is a free man.
"Davonn's exoneration was a moment of sheer exuberance for both Davonn and his legal team," said Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. "It showed once again that, although it is difficult, it is possible to exonerate a wrongfully convicted person even when there is no DNA evidence. In the end, the proof of Davonn's innocence was overwhelming."
In May 2006, Robinson was convicted on the false testimony of the alleged child victims. However, both children later recanted, testifying that their mother beat them with electrical cords until they agreed to make the false accusations. The mother subsequently was convicted of child abuse, and the children voluntarily came forward with the truth.
"After meeting both the children, we were struck by their readiness to voluntarily take the stand and testify in order to correct an injustice. They were ready to come forward, no longer under the fear of violent abuse at the hands of their mother," said David Blinka, one of the Wisconsin Innocence Project students who worked on Robinson's case.
The Wisconsin Innocence Project received the case in early summer 2010. Students Blinka and Brett Dobbs, under the supervision of Findley and co-director John Pray, worked to confirm all of the facts that pointed toward Robinson's innocence, including interviews with pertinent witnesses, and helped to draft supplemental pleadings.
Robinson's case was presented at an evidentiary hearing in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Aug. 27, 2010. Less than a month later, on Sept. 23, the court vacated Robinson's conviction, and the state promptly dismissed all charges against him. Wisconsin Innocence Project faculty and students were on hand as Robinson walked out of prison a free man. Video of Robinson's tearful reunion with his mother is available here.
"This case represents a victory for both the children and for Davonn. And it's gratifying to know that a family has been reunited," Dobbs said. "However, Davonn was arrested just months before he would have graduated from high school. While it's incredibly satisfying to know that Davonn can now make up for lost time, he still has a long road ahead of him.
Since its creation in September 1998, the Wisconsin Innocence Project has exonerated 12 wrongly convicted individuals, and presented new evidence of innocence to free three others cases either were not yet fully resolved or were resolved short of a complete exoneration.
Submitted by UW Law School News on December 12, 2010