Even after three Nebraskans were found to have been wrongfully convicted and spent almost 20 years for a murder they did not commit, many state senators are undecided about compensation laws in Nebraska.
Nebraska is one of 25 states without a compensation statute. In a survey of state senators conducted by the Associated Press, 14 senators were in favor exoneree compensation, and five were against. However, 20 senators were undecided and 10 did not take part in the survey, which comes on the heels of the "Beatrice 6" case, in which Thomas Winslow, Joseph White and Ada JoAnn Taylor were cleared of all charges in the 1985 murder and rape of Helen Wilson in Beatrice, Nebraska. (Three others had also been arrested and convicted but finished serving their sentences in 1994. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said he intends to pursue full pardons for all six.)
According to the AP, State Senator Tony Fulton said that compensation is “the right thing to do,” adding that it should go beyond financial compensation and could include help with employment and education. However, those who voiced uncertainty about compensation in the AP survey argue that the state's current economic condition may have to take priority over compensation for the wrongfully convicted. Others, including Senator Russ Karpisek questioned where funds for compensations would come from:
“This is a tough one,” Karpisek said. “Although they should get help to start their lives over, where does the money come from? How much money would make a difference? Would the judicial system be afraid to jail people in fear of possible compensation?”
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. (Associated Press, 12/29/08)
Even when states do have compensation laws, they often fall far short of the federal standard for monetary amounts and don’t include critical state services.
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