On Friday, prosecutors in Milwaukee announced that they were dropping all charges against Chaunte Ott, who was freed from prison in January after serving nearly 13 years for a murder DNA proves he didn’t commit. Friday’s move fully clears Ott, and he is officially the 239th person exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States.
In 1995, Ott was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering a 16-year-old girl in Milwaukee and leaving her body behind an abandoned house. Two men testified at his trial that they had participated in the crime with him, and a medical examiner testified that a knife found in Ott’s house could have caused the stab wounds on the victim’s body. Ott was convicted in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison.
Twelve years later, the Wisconsin Innocence Project obtained access to DNA testing on Ott’s behalf. Semen collected from the victim’s body at her autopsy was tested, and the results excluded Ott and his two alleged accomplices (both of whom had apparently recanted their testimony after Ott’s trial). The DNA results also matched male profiles obtained from the scenes of two similar Milwaukee murders. One of the victims in those cases was found just a few houses from where the victim in Ott’s case was found. Based on these test results, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin ordered Ott’s conviction vacated in late 2008 and he was freed in January.
His attorneys at the Wisconsin Innocence Project said the 35-year-old Ott was relieved by the news that charges were being dropped and that they hope that this move by prosecutors will make it easier for Ott to find a job.