By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Claims Board on Friday awarded $25,000 to a U.S. Navy veteran who spent 26 years behind bars for a homicide he didn’t commit.
Derrick Sanders, now 48, argued he was wrongfully convicted in the fatal shooting of Jason Bowie in Milwaukee in 1992. Prosecutors dropped the charges against him in 2018 after a circuit judge had thrown out his conviction.
“The Board concludes and finds that the evidence is clear and convincing that Sanders was innocent of the charge discussed herein,” the decision said.
Sanders had asked the board for $5.7 million but state law limits compensation for wrongful convictions to $25,000. Sanders’ current attorney, Rex Anderegg, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
According to board documents, Sanders, Anthony Boddie and John Peavy attacked Bowie in November 1992, beating him at two different houses. Boddie and Peavy later took Bowie to an abandoned house where Boddie shot him in the head. Anderegg said Boddie was angry because Bowie had broken into his girlfriend’s house.
Boddie pleaded guilty to first-degree intentional homicide, Peavy pleaded guilty to being a party to the homicide, and Sanders pleaded no contest to the same charge. He was convicted in 1993 and sentenced to life in prison.
Sanders insisted he wasn’t involved in the shooting and hadn’t even known it had happened. He maintained his attorney was ineffective because he didn’t explain the meaning of being a party to a crime and his no-contest plea wasn’t intelligently entered because he hadn’t understood the punishment he would suffer.
A state appeals court in 1995 tossed out his plea and kicked his case back to circuit court. The following year, he re-entered his no-contest plea on the advice of his new attorney, even though Sanders had told him that he hadn’t even witnessed the shooting. Sanders said he believed that his participation in the beating left him strictly liable for the homicide.
Sanders continued to pursue an appeal from prison, arguing that his new attorney had never explained to him how his behavior would establish he was guilty of being a party to the homicide. He testified that if he had understood, he wouldn’t have pleaded no contest.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner tossed out the plea in August 2018, ruling that prosecutors hadn’t demonstrated Sanders understood the ramifications of his plea. Prosecutors dropped the charges a month later, saying they had asked police to re-interview Boddie, who told them he alone shot Bowie in the basement of the abandoned house.