Attorney General Jon Bruning has appealed to the State Supreme Court a district judge’s ruling that has blocked Nebraska Board of Pardons hearings on 24 juvenile cases.
Bruning says the ruling blocked the board from quick compliance with a United States Supreme Court ruling. In Miller v Alabama, decided in June, the Supreme Court ruled judges must be given options to life in prison for juveniles convicted of capital crimes. Bruning says that if the Nebraska Supreme Court rules that decision is retroactive, all 24 cases would be affected.
Bruning sought to use the broad discretion of the Pardons Board to adjust the sentences, comply with the ruling and keep the offenders in prison.
“When you look at what you’re seeing here; Patrick Russell strangled an 8-year-old boy, sexually assaulted him. Chris Garza beat up a girl who was babysitting and then let her bleed to death. These are bad guys. They deserve to be in prison for the remainder of their lives,” Bruning says.
Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka issued an injunction preventing the board from holding hearings this week. Otepka argued the board could not act unless the prisoner applied for a hearing.
Bruning not only disagrees with the ruling, but argues Otepka, as a district judge, has no authority to interfere with the Board of Pardons’ proceedings. He argues in his brief to the State Supreme Court that the Pardons Board has the constitutional authority to review the cases and change their sentences to comply with the United States Supreme Court ruling.
If the State Supreme Court doesn’t overturn Otepka’s ruling, the 24 cases could come up for re-sentencing hearings which Bruning says would require extra effort and expense.
All of the cases involve convictions for First Degree Murder, except for one, which was a kidnapping case. The oldest case stretches back to 1971; that of Luigi Grayer convicted in Douglas County of First Degree Murder While in the Commission of Robbery.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]