On March 9, 2002, a female undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin was grabbed from behind near a parking garage as she walked home shortly before 3 a.m.
The man violently groped her genitals through her pantyhose and she screamed. A private security guard heard her scream and ran to an alleyway where he saw the two struggling. When he turned on his radio to summon police, the attacker heard a beeping sound and fled.
The victim gave a description and police prepared a composite sketch. The victim said her attacker had blue eyes and both the victim and the security guard said the attacker was between 20 and 30 years old.
On April 4, 2002, police brought the victim and the security guard to a live lineup.
The victim and security guard both picked out Forest Shomberg – a man well known to the police because of his long criminal record – even though Shomberg was 38 years old and had brown eyes.
At trial, the victim said Shomberg was “the best of the six” and that “he very well could not have been the guy.”
The security guard had initially told police he had only gotten a brief look at the attacker in the dark and from 25 feet away. At trial, the security guard said that the attacker had slipped in a better lit area in his attempt to run away and that provided him with a better look at the attacker’s face. The security guard said he was 100 per cent sure Shomberg was the attacker.
Three witnesses for Shomberg testified they were together watching a movie at the time of the attack.
On April 9, 2003, Shomberg was convicted by a judge who heard the case without a jury. He was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault, false imprisonment and bail jumping and sentenced to 12 years in prison. His sentence was enhanced because he was convicted as a habitual criminal, with previous convictions for theft, burglary, criminal damage to property, car theft, hit and run and illegal possession of a firearm.
After Shomberg lost his appeals, the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School began investigating and obtained a court order to conduct DNA testing of the pantyhose.
After hearing evidence that the tests showed the presence of male DNA that was not Shomberg’s DNA as well as expert testimony on the unreliability of eyewitness identification, Dane County Circuit Judge Patrick Fiedler vacated Shomberg’s conviction on November 13, 2009 and ordered his release from prison. On November 20, Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard dismissed the charges.
In December 2012, the Wisconsin Claims board denied Shomberg's request for compensation, saying he did not present "clear and convincing evidence" of innocence. A circuit court in Eau Claire later reversed that vote and ordered the board to compensate Shomberg. Two months later, in August 2013, Shomberg was found dead in his car. In May 2014, the Wisconsin Claims board awarded Shomberg's family $97,000.
– Maurice Possley