Nathan T. Otis of Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., Secures Compensation for Man’s Estate after Wrongful Conviction

An attorney from Madison, Wisconsin, worked with the Wisconsin Claims Board to secure compensation for a man who was wrongfully behind bars for six years.

RELEASED: May 31, 2014


In 2003, Forest Shomberg was convicted in Dane County, Wisconsin, for second-degree sexual assault. The defendant continuously maintained his innocence throughout the criminal matter, but despite denials, he was ultimately found guilty of the crime. He was sentenced to 12 years of initial confinement in prison, followed by eight years of extended community supervision following his release.

Mr. Shomberg continued to fight his conviction, appealing the verdict all the way to the Supreme Court; however, these appeals were not successful. After he exhausted most of his options, the Wisconsin Innocence Project took up the case.

The organization was successful in reexamining the matter. Specifically, the team uncovered “touch” DNA on the sexual assault victim’s clothing. The evidence was tested and ultimately revealed that the DNA on the victim did not match Forest Shomberg’s DNA.

Based on this new evidentiary discovery, along with enhanced understandings on the unreliability of eyewitness identification, the original trial judge on the defendant’s case reversed Mr. Shomberg’s conviction and, in November of 2009, his case was dismissed. Despite this victory, he spent nearly 6 years in prison before he was exonerated from the false conviction.

After the reversal, the Wisconsin Innocence Project began helping Mr. Shomberg petition Wisconsin for compensation for the time he spent wrongfully incarcerated. Wisconsin law provides that individuals who have been incarcerated for crimes they did not commit can petition the Wisconsin Claims Board for reparation. The law also authorizes compensation for attorney’s fees incurred in fighting the wrongful conviction.

In December of 2012, the Claims Board heard his petition, and denied him any compensation. Mr. Shomberg appealed this decision to a Circuit Court, and in June 2013, an Eau Claire County Judge found that Mr. Shomberg was entitled to recovery. The Claims Board scheduled a second hearing for September 2013; however, just weeks before this hearing, Mr. Shomberg tragically passed away.

This is where Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., stepped in.

Justice for the wrongfully accused

Mr. Shomberg’s only surviving family member – his mother – wanted to pursue the compensation claim in her son’s name. With the help of Juscha Robinson, Nathan T. Otis of Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., set up an estate on Mr. Shomberg’s behalf and briefed the Claims Board on why the estate should recover the damages in Mr. Shomberg’s name. Mr. Otis was successful in presenting a combination of arguments, which the Claims Board adopted.

In the end, the Claims Board awarded $20,000 for the 6 years Mr. Shomberg spent behind bars, as well as $77,500 in legal fees for a total of $97,500. The money is currently being processed through his estate.

This successful pursuit of justice was truly uncharted territory, as Wisconsin had approximately 15 wrongful incarceration cases in the last 20 years. Moreover, never before had a defendant passed away while his or her case was pending. Ultimately, this ruling is a testament to Mr. Otis’ devotion to the case. The attorneys of Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., are dedicated to the truth – no matter how long it takes. The professionals stop at nothing to seek redress for those wrongfully accused.

About Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C.

The dynamic team of lawyers at Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., is known for their steadfast legal advocacy and plentiful courtroom experience. The firm has handled thousands of criminal cases, and the attorneys have garnered a reputation in Wisconsin’s legal community for success. If you are looking for a reputable and trustworthy criminal law professional, contact Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., at 608-620-0018 .

Keywords: Exoneration, justice, criminal defense, sexual assault

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