Attorney must pay man $2.6 million

Oct. 13, 2000

Madison, WI - A jury has found the attorney of a man wrongly convicted of rape should pay his client more than $2.6 million, because the lawyer did not seek crucial DNA tests that might have exonerated the client.

The decision Thursday against attorney Willie Nunnery came in the case of Anthony Hicks, who spent 4 1/2 years in prison.

Hicks claimed that during his 1991 trial, Nunnery neglected to seek DNA tests on hair-root tissue samples that might have proved he did not commit the rape.

The lawsuit, heard before Dane County Circuit Judge Steven Ebert, also alleged that Nunnery failed before the trial to pursue a witness who would have bolstered Hicks' alibi.

The jury decided that Nunnery was negligent on both counts and that Hicks might have been found not guilty had Nunnery taken those steps. They awarded Hicks $2,606,950.

Hicks' attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, had asked the jury for $2.5 million for lost wages and the pain and humiliation that Hicks suffered from the conviction.

"It's closure for myself and my family," Hicks said moments after the verdict. "It's now time to move forward."

Nunnery and his lawyer, Robert Hase, left the courtroom after the verdict without comment.

Hicks was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in her Madison apartment on Nov. 15, 1990, and was sentenced to 19 years in prison. DNA evidence, taken from root tissue of hairs found at the crime scene eventually won him

Hase told the jury that Nunnery should not have been expected to know about the procedure to analyze DNA taken from root tissue. Haze also questioned whether the DNA evidence would have been strong enough to put reasonable
doubt into the minds of jurors at Hicks' trial.

(Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 14, 2000.)

Anthony Hicks
Truth in Justice