On November 15, 1990, a 26-year-old woman was getting ready for work in her Madison, Wisconsin apartment when she heard a knock at the door.
She opened the door to a black man claiming to be her upstairs neighbor and requesting to use the phone. The victim let him into her apartment, but once inside, the man stole money from her purse, tied a scarf around her and sexually assaulted her.
A few days later, 26-year-old Anthony Hicks, who was black, was stopped a few days after the crime on a charge of drunken driving. He became a suspect when someone at the jail thought he looked like the police sketch.
Five hairs were recovered from the bedroom in the victim’s apartment. At Hicks' trial, a forensic analyst testified that five Negroid hairs found in the victim’s apartment were “consistent” with samples provided by Hicks. The analyst also testified that a Caucasian head hair was found inside the pants Hicks was wearing when arrested, and that this hair was “consistent” with the victim’s head hair. Because there is not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair, an analyst’s assertion that hairs are consistent was inherently prejudicial and lacked probative value.
All original DNA testing done on the hairs was inconclusive due to insufficient sample size. There was not enough sperm found for testing. All serology testing results were inconclusive.
On December 19, 1991, Hicks was convicted of rape, robbery and burglary. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Hicks eventually secured access to the evidence and had it subjected to DNA testing. One of the roots of one of the hairs yielded enough DNA to obtain a profile, which excluded Hicks.
In 1995, Hicks was granted a new trial on appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The court found that his trial should have pursued further DNA testing before trial to establish his client's innocence. The grant of a new trial was affirmed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, not based on ineffective assistance of counsel, but in the interest of justice due to available DNA tests. In 1996 the DNA test results excluded Hicks as the perpetrator, and the prosecutor declined to retry him.
Hicks received $109,000 in state compensation. He sued his trial attorney for failing to seek DNA tests on the hairs and won a jury verdict of $2.6 million. The award was later set aside by an appeals court and the case was settled out of court.