Nearly four years after DNA testing exonerated the Beatrice Six, two of its members were awarded compensation Thursday by a district court judge. Named for the Nebraska town where they were wrongfully convicted, the Beatrice Six were convicted of a 1985 murder after five of the accused entered pleas, reported the
Lincoln Journal Star
Ada JoAnn Taylor spent nearly 20 years in prison and James Dean spent five years after pleading guilty. Taylor was awarded $500,000, the maximum allowed by the state, and Dean was awarded $300,000 under the Nebraska Claims for Wrongful Conviction and Imprisonment Act of 2009, which was passed shortly after their exoneration.
In his opinion, Judge Daniel E. Bryan Jr. cited testimony from false confession expert Richard A. Leo who told the court Taylor and Dean were persuaded to incriminate themselves.
“(Both Taylor and Dean) did not commit or suborn perjury, fabricate evidence, or otherwise make a false statement to cause or bring about her conviction or the conviction of another,” Bryan wrote in his opinion. “(Taylor and Dean’s) statements … were not a result of physical force by law enforcement, but were caused by law enforcement’s improper investigative practices and procedures.”
Judge Bryan also wrote about his disappointment in the state’s compensation cap.
“To try to attempt to place any value on one’s liberty to be free is a Herculean task,” he said.
During the hearing earlier this week, Attorney General Jon Bruning, who declared the Beatrice Six innocent in 2008, defended the state in an attempt to deny compensation. Bruning has since announced that his office would appeal the decision.
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