KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri man who spent nearly two decades in mental hospitals after entering a disputed plea in the 1997 sexual assault of a teenager has sued his original defense attorney.

Mike Wilkerson contends in his lawsuit that his family begged Springfield attorney Dee Wampler to have DNA testing done, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

His family members do not believe Wilkerson put a 17-year-old in handcuffs, held a knife to her throat and sexually assaulted her. His parents hired Wampler and allegedly told him during their first meeting that they wanted DNA testing done.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jasper County contends Wampler refused — a decision that cost Wilkerson 20 years of his life. Wampler declined to comment.

The victim said she was sexually assaulted by a gunman who entered her home after pretending to be lost, and she identified Wilkerson as her attacker from a photo lineup.

Prosecutors in Missouri’s Jasper County dropped the charges against him.

Jasper County Prosecutor Theresa Kenney said prosecutors who initially handled the case failed to consider all of the evidence. At that time, only the condom found at the scene was tested for DNA, but that examination proved inconclusive with the technology available then.

Wilkerson, who had previously been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, alleges in his lawsuit that Wampler induced him to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Wilkerson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in 2000, and by Missouri law, he was ordered committed indefinitely to mental hospitals. In such cases, defendants remain in the state Department of Mental Health’s custody until they prove they no longer have a mental illness that could endanger themselves or others. Because Wilkerson’s case involved a violent sex act, he faced the added burden of showing he understood the criminality of it — essentially admitting it.

But Bill Fleischaker, his appeals attorney, has said Wilkerson always professed his innocence.

Wilkerson’s son and daughter were 9 and 6 years old when he was committed to a mental institution. He missed out on seeing his children’s graduations, their marriages and the birth of a granddaughter, his lawsuit contends.


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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