BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) – A Nebraska county sentenced to pay $ 28.1 million to six people wrongly convicted of murder may be able to pass the remainder of the federal sentence in the next three years to settle much earlier than initially expected, officials said.
According to the Beatrice Daily Sun, Gage County officials had originally predicted it would take nine years for the court’s verdict to be paid.
The schedule change came after state lawmaker and Governor Pete Ricketts approved $ 4 million in state funds earlier that year to help the county.
The Senators also passed state law in 2019 that allowed the county to sell a penny to pay the verdict faster, despite objections from Ricketts that the normal process of getting voter approval was bypassed. Sales tax has raised approximately $ 1 million annually and will expire once the judgment is paid in full. Gage County also agreed with its insurance carriers to receive nearly $ 6 million for the verdict.
Gage County made its first payment, totaling $ 1.9 million, in June 2019 after all appeals were exhausted. By December, the county had paid $ 14.9 million to the wrongly convicted persons, collectively known as Beatrice Six.
In a meeting on Wednesday, Gage County’s Board of Directors formally thanked Ricketts, Senator Myron Dorn, who represents the region, and other lawmakers who approved the financial assistance.
“The light is at the end of the tunnel,” said district director Erich Tiemann. “We are in this four-year span and thus possibly three years. We’ll keep clicking and that’ll be behind us before we know. “
The Beatrice Six were convicted in 1985 for the rape and murder of 68-year-old Helen Wilson in her apartment in downtown Beatrice.
They were arrested in March and April 1989 and spent a total of 75 years in prison until DNA evidence revealed that another man had committed the crime. In 2016, a federal jury awarded the six a total of $ 28.1 million.
Similar bills have not gained momentum in the past, but Dorn, who chaired the Gage County’s Board of Supervisors prior to his election to the legislature, previously said it helped the county reach an agreement with insurance carriers last year.
In August, Gage County reached an agreement with insurance companies such as the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (NIRMA), Employers Mutual Casualty (EMC) and four deductible carriers for settlement.