Christopher Ochoa confessed in Texas to a rape and murder he didn’t commit. He felt it was the only way to save himself from execution in a state known for its high execution rate. “For a year, I kept telling my defense attorney I was not guilty. He kept insisting I should plead guilty to avoid the death penalty,” Ochoa said said yesterday in Madison, Wi., at a symposium on innocence and the death penalty, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Ten years into his life sentence, Ochoa, now 26, wrote to the Wisconsin Innocence Project, where advocates helped exonerate him through DNA testing. By the time he was freed in 2002, he had served 12 years in prison. Ochoa plans to attend the University of Wisconsin Law School this fall.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to abolish the death penalty when it did so in 1853, said Keith A. Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project. However, today’s political climate makes the possibility of executions here more likely, he said. A pending state Senate bill would bring the death penalty to Wisconsin. If that fails, some legislators want a statewide referendum.