Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Ralph D. Armstrong



Murder and Rape


Life Imprisonment

Years Imprisoned:


Year Crime:


Year Convicted:


Year Cleared:


U.S. State or Country of Crime:


County or Region of Crime:


City of Crime:



Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

"Ralph D. Armstrong was wrongly convicted in 1981 of raping and murdering a 19-year-old Jane May in a downton Madison, Wisconsin apartment on June 24, 1980. Ralph Armstrong was sentenced to life in prison. In 2005 the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Armstrong's conviction after forensic tests excluded him as the source of crime-scene DNA. While preparing for Armstrong's retrial his lawyers discovered in 2007 that the prosecution had failed to disclose that Armstrong's brother Steve had confessed to at least two people in the mid-1990s that he committed the crime. Steve Armstrong died in July 2005 without being charged with the crimes. After awaiting his retrial for four years, on July 30, 2009 the indictment was dismissed against Armstrong by Reserve Judge Robert Kinney, who found that Dane County Assistant District Attorney John Norsetter had acted in "bad faith" by deliberately failing to disclose that Steve had confessed to two women. After the Dane County DA announced it wouldn't appeal Judge Kinney's ruling, Armstrong was released on August 26, 2009 after being wrongly imprisoned for 29 years and two months from the time of his arrest on June 24, 1980. On June 15, 2012 Armstrong filed a pro se $58 million federal civil rights lawsuit that named as defendants the Madison Police Department, the Dane County District Attorney's Office, Dan County Assistant District Attorney John Norsetter, and the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and Crime Lab DNA analyst Karen Daily (retired). In May 2013 Armstrong hired the Chicago lawfirm of Loevy & Loevy to represent him. On February 6, 2017 it was announced that the city of Madison agreed to settle the lawsuit for $600,000, and the state of Wisconsin agreed to settle the lawsuit on behalf of Daily for $150,000. On February 7, 2017 it was announced that Dane County agreed to settle the lawsuit on behalf of Norsetter for $1,000,000."

Conviction Caused By:

Innocence Proved By:

"On July 30, 2009 the Wisconsin Court of Appeals dismissed the indictment against Armstrong."

Defendant Aided By:

Innocence Project at Cardozo School of Law. Armstromg was represented in civil rights lawsuit by Chicago lawfirm of Loevy & Loevy.

Compensation Awarded:

"$1.75 million total. $750,000 (State of Wisconsin and City of Madison, 2-6-17), $1,000,000 (Dane County (ADA John Norsetter), 2-7-17)"

Was Perpetrator Identified?

Age When Imprisoned:


Age When Released:





Information Source 1:

"Wisconsin_vs_Armstrong, No. 80-CF-495 (Dane County Cir Ct, 7-30-09)"

Information Location 1:

Information Source 2:

"Murder Conviction Overturned, Prosecutor Hid Evidence, North Country Gazette, August 2, 2009"

Information Location 2:


Information Source 3:

"Ralph Armstrong sues state over rape, murder convictions that were overturned, By Ed Treleven (staff), Wisconsin State Journal, June 16, 2012"

Information Location 3:


Information Source 4:

"Ralph Armstrong v. State of Wisconsin, et al. No. 3-2012cv00426 (DC WI Western Dist) (Complaint filed on June 15, 2012)"

Information Location 4:


Information Source 5:

"Ralph Armstrong also receiving $1 million settlement from Dane County for overturned conviction, By Ed Treleven, Wisconsin State Journal, February 7, 2017"

Information Location 5:


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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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