Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson today granted a request by the attorney for Joseph Edgar White to expunge White’s arrest and conviction in the murder and rape of Helen Wilson of Beatrice. In a hearing that lasted less than ten minutes in Wilber, Johnson granted the petition of White’s attorney, Doug Stratton of Norfolk.
“What we were finding out from Mr. White was the conviction had made its way to all the various databases for law enforcement so when he apply for a job that would show up and the fact that the case was dismissed after the fact was’nt making it all the way through the process in to the databases, so as a result of that it would appear as though he was convicted of first degree murder. He was just having trouble finding a job.”
White was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life-in-prison in the 1985 killing. He was freed when DNA tests pointed to Bruce Allen Smith as the perpetrator. Smith died of AIDS in an Oklahoma City hospital, in 1992. White is now living with family members in Alabama. Stratton says White has made a number of attempts to gain work, but was having a difficult time because of the criminal record in the case.
Stratton says his client will likely pursue compensation under a measure passed in this year’s legislative session, regarding wrongful conviction relief. He says White is also considering a lawsuit against the state for his conviction and sentence.
Five co-defendants in the Helen Wilson murder and rape were exonerated by the DNA finding. White did NOT return to Nebraska for the Monday morning hearing in Saline County District Court.
The motion to expunge the record named Gage County Attorney Randall Ritnour as the defendant. He was represented in court Monday by Deputy County Attorney Rick Schreiner, who did NOT oppose the petition.