Judge Orders Wisconsin Man’s Release After Rape Conviction Overturned

Dane County Judge Orders Signature Bond For Richard Beranek, Whose Trial Relied Heavily On Hair Evidence

Richard Beranek
Shamane Mills/WPR

A Dane County judge has ordered the release of a man whose rape conviction was overturned because of new DNA evidence.

Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara ordered Richard Beranek released on a signature bond Thursday.

Jarrett Adams, an attorney with the New York-based Innocence Project, said Beranek’s family has supported him while he was imprisoned for 27 years.

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“There has been a lot of time that has passed, and I believe that he more than deserves his opportunity to reunite with his family,” Adams said.

Beranek was serving a 243-year prison sentence after being convicted in 1990 of raping a rural Stoughton woman in her home in 1987. Earlier this month, a judge overturned the conviction which was largely based on hair evidence. The FBI admitted its analyst’s conclusion tying Beranek to that hair was flawed.

Beranek’s attorneys — Keith Findley and Cristina Bordé of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, and Bryce Benjet and Adams of the New York-based Innocence Project — say it will take time to adjust after his release.

“I’m concerned that so much time has passed that it will all hit him at one time, and so that’s why we aren’t just his attorneys to get him out, but are also going to invest to make sure he re-acclimates back himself to society,” Adams said. “Just think about it: there were still pay phones out when he was incarcerated. And if you had a cell phone, it was the size your leg and an antenna that was even longer. So a lot has changed. He’s never used the internet. We just hope to see him hug his family first and foremost. We’ll worry about other things when we get to that.”

Dane County prosecutor Robert Kaiser did not say after the bail hearing whether the state would appeal the ruling overturning Beranek’s conviction or retry the case. The state has until July 24 to notify the court of its decision.

Beranek’s team of attorneys are ready to further defend the ruling in court.

“We’re going to fully defend this case if we have to, but when folks look at all of the evidence, and the DNA, it certainly shows that the key evidence against him was not true. And that (the state is) not going to be able to proceed,” Benjet said.

McNamara released Beranek on a signature bond and set conditions that don’t allow him to contact the victim or drive a motor vehicle. He also has a 9 p.m. curfew.

McNamara said Beranek had waited decades for his day in court and was unlikely to miss any future court dates.

It was not clear by deadline when Beranek would be released.

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