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‘Deliberate, Systematic’: Freed Milwaukee Man Who Spent 18 Years In Prison Alleges He Was Framed for Murder, Files Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit

A formerly incarcerated man is suing the city of Milwaukee and members of its police force, claiming officers conspired to have him wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder, which resulted in his being in prison for 18 years.

For close to two decades, Danny Wilber, an Oneida Nation citizen, maintained his innocence and pushed for his freedom. In 2021, a U.S. appeals court heard his petition. It overturned his conviction, stating that the evidence used to convict him of killing David Diaz on Jan. 31, 2004, was insufficient to keep him incarcerated.

On July 17, the 44-year-old man filed a civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Danny Wilber was released from prison in 2022 after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. (Photo: Twitter/@exonerationlist)

In the complaint obtained by Atlanta Black Star, Wilber claims that officers from the Milwaukee Police Department arrested him in February 2004 for Diaz’ killing but moved quickly to close the case by “pinning” the crime on him. He alleges that they fabricated evidence against him and hid evidence that could have proven his innocence.

Diaz was shot in the back of his head in his home during an after party at a home. Wilber, who was 24 at the time, was one of many other partygoers at the residence at the time of the 23-year-old’s death.

His lawyers stated the department neglected to investigate other possible suspects for Diaz’s death.

“I firmly believe that what the (Milwaukee Police Department) did to me was deliberate, systematic and meticulously orchestrated to frame and wrongfully convict an obviously innocent man,” a statement from Wilber read. 

Lawyers contend that Wilber “spent much of his adult life in prison, separated from his family and friends and robbed of the most basic freedoms,” despite medical evidence showing he could not have shot Diaz based on the facts of the case.

“Despite the impossibility based on the physical and medical evidence that Plaintiff Wilber could have been the shooter, the police immediately focused on him as their sole suspect instead of conducting the necessary investigation to solve the homicide and identify David Diaz’s actual killer,” the complaint states. The complaint continues, “Although the evidence revealed multiple other plausible suspects, the Defendants never investigated any of them, instead directing all of their efforts towards pinning the crime on Plaintiff while seeking to discredit the evidence that pointed to other suspects.”

Wilber is seeking unspecified financial compensation from the city and eight living detectives — Gregory Schuler, Randolph Olson, Louis Johnson, Timothy Duffy, Joseph Erwin, Ruben Burgos, Michael Caballero, and Kent Corbett — who worked on the case.

A special representative will be appointed as a stand-in proxy for Thomas Casper, a detective who worked on the case but is now deceased. He is also being “sued in his individual capacity” based on his role in the case as an officer.

In addition to fabricating evidence, accusations against the officers include intimidation and coercion.

Of the lawsuit, Wilber said, “I hope that this case will bring some measure of law enforcement accountability when it comes to the MPD’s bringing of false charges and obtaining wrongful convictions of Black and Indigenous people in Milwaukee.”

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