Now That the Innocent Are Freed, What Next?

By: Mr. Wilson on November 11, 2008
The last of the six persons wrongfully convicted in the 1985 Helen Wilson murder has been freed. Now what? I'm certain we will hear from the six soon enough in the form of lawsuits against the State. After all, Attorney General Jon Bruning and others have stated quite clearly that this miscarriage of justice was no simple accident. Rather, government agents bullied and lied in order to gain convictions. Shame on them. Six people paid for their sins with their freedom, while you and I will no doubt pay out of our pockets. But there's an even larger issue here. There is no way this is the only case of wrongful conviction in Nebraska. And I'm not just talking about cases in which reasonable people may have come to an incorrect -- but defensible -- conclusion. No, it's a near certainty that there are people sitting in jail right now who not only did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted, but who were convicted thanks to misconduct on the part of their accusers. The question we have to ask ourselves is: What are we going to do about it? I'm not intimating that the problem is widespread in Nebraska. I only suspect the number of such cases is greater than zero; beyond that, I couldn't begin to guess. (We are nowhere near the standards of Texas justice, for example.) Yet one failure of justice is one too many, especially if the State is in a position to do anything about it. I would be tickled to see Nebraska initiate a program to more actively pursue and remedy wrongful convictions (not to mention preventing them in the first place). And to head off the straw man arguments, no, that doesn't mean giving everybody a new trial or permitting unlimited appeals. How should Nebraska apologize to the six wrongfully convicted persons in the Helen Wilson case? What steps can we take to prevent future wrongful convictions and to remedy the mistakes already made?


See what your friends and neighbors have to say about this.

November 11, 2008 at 7:40PM

First, to me this is the most compelling argument against the death penalty.  It is extremely difficult to prove guilt absolutely.  Here’s a list of 130 individuals who were sentenced to death and subsequently freed due to either new evidence leading to acquittal or pardons or dismissed charges.
No one really knows how many innocent have been executed.

Second, it seems very very strange that as soon as (within weeks) the imprisoned are found innocent, the real murderer is identified.  Very strange indeed.

November 11, 2008 at 8:15PM

The state does owe these six a huge apology and monetary compensation, but one of the 6 lied to save her hide and the other 5 paid for it. Maybe she should apologize as well

Cedric Satterfield
November 12, 2008 at 9:39PM

And he’s dead, too….so there is no way to try him or anything. How convenient. As far as the one that ‘lied’ to save her hide, well, when a psychiatric expert says you are crazy, then says there is no way for your brain to remember things because of the heinousness of the crime, that’s pretty compelling to anyone that isn’t, I don’t know, a psychiatric expert? Once the experts weigh in and the jury hears it, what are you supposed to do? The jury, if truly representative, probably wasn’t any more educated (or less so) than she was. HS graduation in Gage county is an event-and as far as many go. ( I grew up there, graduated in 1995, and left).

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