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Appeals court rejects Gage County requests; says it must pay $28M to Beatrice 6

July 28, 2018

BEATRICE - A bill is coming due soon which Gage County doesn’t know if it can pay.

The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the county’s request to delay payment of the $28.1 million judgment in the Beatrice 6 case while it appeals to the US Supreme Court.

Gage County supervisors met in closed session Wednesday.

Attorney Patrick O’Brien says the county has been preparing for the court’s decision. O’Brien says the county cannot make full payment of the judgment. He says the county is working with financial advisers, including consulting with two bankruptcy attorneys.

“We’ve been dealing with this issue for many years and specifically addressing the issues of what needs to be done for over two years on a regular basis. Lots of research is being done,” O’Brien says. “Some research still remains to be done. We’ve talked to private and public parties. Suggestions that the state hasn’t been contacted are completely false.”

A federal jury in 2016 awarded six people falsely convicted in the 1985 murder and rape of Helen Wilson in her Beatrice apartment. The six spent a total of 75 years in prison until DNA evidence pointed investigators to the real culprit, Bruce Allen Smith, who died in an Oklahoma prison. The judgment is owed to Ada JoAnn Taylor, Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Kathleen Gonzalez, Debra Shelden, and the estate of Joseph White. White has died.

The state pardoned the six in 2009.

Another attorney working for the county, Melanie Whittemore-Mantzios, has contacted the attorney for the Beatrice 6.

“I have talked to Jeff Patterson yesterday about what the county intends to do to try to get this judgment paid,” Whittemore-Mantzios says.

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