MADISON (WKOW) -- A dramatic appeal to vacate a sex offender's conviction after a three-day hearing in Dane County court fails, as attorneys prepare to continue to argue over the potentially, wrongful conviction for at least two more months.
During the hearing, attorneys for The Wisconsin Innocence Project presented expert witness testimony to try to prove 58-year old Richard Beranek's 1990 convictions on more than a half-dozen sexual assault felony counts were wrong. The witnesses spoke to a hair found at the crime scene and its link to Beranek at trial, with new DNA testing excluding Beranek as the source of the hair. During trial, an FBI analyst testified the hair could have been Beranek's hair.
"We now know that the hair that so powerfully tied Mr. Beranek to this case, actually wasn't his," Beranek attorney Keith Findlay says.
"Mr. Beranek has waited 27 years in prison for justice," Findlay says. "He shouldn't have to wait any longer."
"We ask that the court terminate these proceedings...and vacate Mr. Beranek's conviction."
"I don't think it's as simple as Mr. Findlay has argued," says Judge Daniel Moeser, who presided over Beranek's 1999 trial, and sentenced him to 243 years in prison after the jury found him guilty on all counts.
Moeser says there must be a decision on what weight to give to the evidence to include the new DNA test results, as all the trial's evidence is considered.
The evidence includes testimony from the Town of Pleasant Springs victim that identified Beranek as the man who sexually assaulted her. The victim's daughter tells 27 News the totality of the evidence proves Beranek's guilt, and says her mother is upset over his bid to have his convictions set aside.
Findlay says inaccurate eyewitness testimony has often shown convictions to be wrongful, and says the victim in the Beranek case identified Beranek two years after the crimes. Findlay says he will offer the court more scientific evidence: testing showing the majority of DNA found in underwear at the crime scene is the DNA of someone other than Beranek.
"It's disappointing for Mr. Beranek, who's waited this long," Findlay says. "But sometimes the process takes a long time."
Prosecutors have forty-five days to submit written briefs on their view of Beranek's convictions in light of the newly, submitted evidence, with Beranek's attorneys then given thirty days to respond.