Wrongly Jailed Man Not Adequately Compensated
(CN) - A Nebraska man who was wrongfully convicted of murder may not have received enough compensation, the state's highest court ruled.
James Dean and Ada JoAnn Taylor were convicted of second-degree murder in the 1985 death of Helen Wilson, who was brutally raped and killed in Beatrice, Neb. The case remained cold for four years before the plaintiffs and four other suspects were arrested.
Dean originally claimed innocence, but he confessed after a dreaming of the murder. He believed that a psychologist who visited him in prison had removed a "block" of repressed memories of the crime.
Taylor also doubted her own memories and confessed after seeing a videotape of the crime scene.
Dean and Taylor testified against Joseph White at his trial, and White was convicted of first-degree murder.
However, DNA tests revealed that White, Dean, Taylor and the other three members of the "Beatrice Six" were not involved in Wilson's murder at all.
After they were released and pardoned, Dean and Taylor sued the state under the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act. The trial court ruled in their favor, awarding Dean $300,000 for his five years in prison and Taylor the statutory maximum of $500,000 for spending more than 19 years behind bars.
The state appealed, arguing that they could not recover under the Act because they made false statements at White's trial. Dean argued that his award was inadequate.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor in a decision written by Justice Kenneth C. Stephan.
"The state does not dispute that at the time of their incriminating statements, Dean and Taylor truly believed that they and other members of the Beatrice Six were involved in the murder of Wilson and that this belief was fostered by the psychological interrogation tactics and procedures employed by law enforcement," he wrote.
Stephan also stated that the district court must revisit the amount of Dean's damage award.
"Because the district court did not clearly state whether its damage award to Dean was based on his actual damaged without regard to the statutory cap, it is impossible to determine whether the statutory cap was applicable and properly applied," he added.